The United Kingdom, as NATO’s primary European underwriter, must re-assess its defence policy in light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Kremlin’s other destabilising activities along the Alliance’s eastern flank, finds a new report by The Henry Jackson Society.
Released one year after the NATO Summit in Wales, which adopted multiple initial assurance measures, and just before the finalisation of the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review, After Crimea: Towards a new British Geostrategy for Eastern Europe?argues that for the first time in over two decades the UK faces, in Russia, a serious state-based competitor on the European continent.
The report sheds new light on Russia’s recent strategic activities, arguing that Moscow has adopted a geostrategy designed to deny the Euro-Atlantic structures access to Ukraine and the countries of the South Caucasus by generating ‘manageable chaos’ along NATO’s eastern flank, thus preventing their membership of the Alliance. In addition, Russia seeks to opportunistically press this chaos deep into the Euro-Atlantic system, thereby generating divisions it can exploit to weaken Western power and influence.
The report concludes that:
- While Russia may not be engaged in a ‘neo-imperial’ project, President Putin’s regime presents a serious threat to Britain’s allies in Eastern Europe – and thus to the UK itself, through NATO;
- Deterrence along the new eastern flank of NATO is not as strong as it was during the Cold War. The lack of British and American troops permanently garrisoned in Eastern Europe means that Russia may not take the Allied ‘assurance measures’ seriously;
- The UK must ensure the European vector of its defence system is adequately protected, lest the geopolitical situation deteriorate so significantly that the country is forced to relinquish its global interests to concentrate on its own neighbourhood – as it has been forced to do, at vast cost, so many times in the past.
James Rogers and Andra-Lucia Martinescu, co-authors of the report, commented:
“Rather than trying to shy away from mainland Europe, the United Kingdom needs to re-assert the European dimension of its global policy more forcefully. Europe is the centrepiece of Britain’s wider defence system, and Eastern Europe, being the most exposed to Russia’s aggressive foreign policy, matters most. Long a strong supporter of smaller nations’ right to self-determination, as well as NATO, the UK must ensure the ‘assurance measures’ adopted by the Alliance are sufficient to deter Russian provocation. The Baltic States have asked NATO for the installation of permanent garrisons on their territory: as the most militarily powerful European country, the UK has a responsibility, both to its allies and to itself, to respond appropriately.”