Russian success in Ukraine could precipitate a collapse of both NATO and the EU as well as signalling the end of the post-Cold War global order, a world-respected think-tank has warned.
In what should be a sharp wake-up call for Western leaders, Chatham House’s ‘The Russian Challenge’ report warns NATO members should discard “convenient or fashionable narratives” and instead re-prioritise to face up to the realities of Russian expansionism.
Describing the Ukrainian conflict as a “defining” event for the future of Europe, the report, which is printed in both English and Russia Cyrillic, notes that Putin and his allies are fully aware that as things stand Europe is totally unwilling to “pay the price” to “defend its principles”.
The almost total failure of Europe to stand up to Putin in the former Ukraine has allowed Russia to develop a proxy buffer-state along their Western border, and if the country consequently fails will force European leaders to concede “there can be no security without Russia”, giving it a privileged position in the emerging global order. The report states:
“For the Kremlin, war is a clash of wills as much as resources. In the absence of constraints on Russian military power, the risk is not that Russia could impose a military solution, but that it might enforce a political one that would damage the West’s interests and nullify its efforts”.
The most concerning warnings in the document is the acknowledgement of the increasingly prominent place of tactical nuclear weapons in Russian strategic and even diplomatic thinking, as a perverse expression of “soft power”. Although the use of limited nuclear strike may seem inconceivable today, ‘The Russian Challenge’ acknowledges “The experience of Crimea shows that just because something is unimaginable for Western planners does not mean it is not considered a viable option by Russia”.
The advice that the West concentrate on consolidating defence, and making clear to Russia that further limited wars will be met with a strong conventional response flies in the face of present British government policy, which is following up deep cuts in defence during the coalition with a further £1 billion savings this year. Former head of the Royal Navy Lord West of Spithead has said of the new round of cuts that it risks reduucing the UK to an “irrrelevance” on the world stage.