War In Europe?

The war in Ukraine seems to have settled into a stalemate, and one would think that the Russian army’s mediocre performance in that conflict would dampen any Kremlin aspirations to widen the war. But military leaders in Western Europe are nevertheless sounding an alarm.

Thus, Bild magazine has published documents from Germany’s Ministry of Defense about the possibility of a Russian attack. It isn’t clear from the linked story whether the documents were improperly leaked or were, perhaps, supplied by the Ministry:

Europe is preparing for Russian President Vladimir Putin to expand his country’s war in Ukraine and attack NATO ally countries next year, leaked documents published in German newspaper BILD reveal.

According to the outlet — which obtained the classified military information from the German Ministry of Defense — the country’s armed forces are gearing up for a “hybrid” Russian attack in Eastern Europe.

The newspaper detailed how multiple potential alarming scenarios could unfold in the months ahead.

One such scenario, dubbed “Alliance Defense 2025” would start this February, with Russia mobilizing an additional 200,000 soldiers.

Emboldened by Western financial support for Ukraine drying up, Russia would then launch a massive “spring offensive” against Ukrainian armed forces.

This particular scenario goes on to describe a Russian attack on Western Europe that involves cyberattacks, stirring up of ethnic Russians in the Baltics, fortifying Kaliningrad, “tak[ing] advantage of the transition period following the US presidential election,” and more.

If the leak was intentional, why? Perhaps to warn Putin that Germany will be prepared, or perhaps to prepare Germans for the real possibility of armed conflict.

Similarly, Sweden’s Civil Defense Minister and military Commander-in-Chief are warning that war with Russia is possible.

Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin told a defence conference “there could be war in Sweden”.

His message was then backed up by military commander-in-chief Gen Micael Byden, who said all Swedes should prepare mentally for the possibility.
Despite the starkness of the messaging, the remarks from the civil defence minister and military chief are being seen as a wake-up call.

After two generations of peace, it may be hard for Western Europeans to take national defense seriously. But Sweden is well aware of the threat posed by Russia, and is trying to join NATO, as Finland recently did. Sweden is ramping up its military capability:

Sweden’s civil defence minister said his aim was not for people to lose sleep, but to gain awareness of what was really going on. He appealed to local authorities, emergency planners and individuals to respond.

“If there is one thing that keeps me awake at night, it is the feeling that things are moving too slowly,” Mr Bohlin told the Society and Defence conference on Sunday.
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson added that in 2024, Sweden would meet Nato’s target of spending 2% of economic output (GDP) on military defence, doubling its spending since 2020.

Likely the warnings about Russia are intended, in part, to rally political support for significantly increased military spending. European defense strategists understand the need to increase their forces, quickly:

“Time is limited and it was aimed at being a wake-up call for agencies, individuals and departments,” [Defence specialist Oscar Jonsson] told the BBC.

“The Swedish armed forces are incredibly competent, but the scale is nowhere near. The latest defence bill says we should set up 3.5 brigades, whereas Ukraine had 28 when the war started.”

Gen Byden’s warning to prepare mentally for war comes hard on the heels of a warning a month ago from the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau (BBN), Jacek Siewiera, who said that “to avoid war with Russia, countries on Nato’s eastern flank should adopt a three-year time horizon to prepare for confrontation”.

He said a German Council on Foreign Relations report suggesting Germany and Nato should prepare their armed forces to be able to fend off a Russian attack in six years was “too optimistic”.

In other words, they don’t have six years. It is better to deter wars than to fight them, and these Europeans are concerned enough about Russia, even with its depleted military strength, to take the case for rearmament to their publics. No doubt, too, they are aware of increasing skepticism toward aid to Ukraine among American Republicans.

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