Don’t Underestimate the Russians

A NATO report released Wednesday suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be saving his enhanced capability for a potential attack on NATO members.  This spells trouble for the United States and the rest of the Western Countries that make up NATO.

The brief suggests that Russia’s military might be down but not out after Ukraine. It continues by describing Russia’s resources amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and the fact that the Russian military has not used its full potential in attacking Ukraine. The brief noted limited airpower utilization, constant deployment of less exact weaponry, or what appeared to be curbing online attacks.

According to the brief, Russia has not used its full military might in the assault against Ukraine. The report cites a lack of mobilization,  the restricted utilization of airpower, steady sending of more established and less exact weaponry, and lackluster internet attacks. There is a possibility that Russia holds onto weapons in preparation for a possible NATO war.

Although Moscow’s official narrative is almost always defensive, the essence of its approach is to change the status quo. An attack against a NATO country remains a possibility.   As a way to hold onto reserves for a future engagement with NATO, Russia may be restricting its airpower.

It has long been feared that Putin’s plans for Ukraine could extend to other former Soviet Union countries, including those with NATO security guarantees. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned NATO in June that the Russians may target other countries. NATO’s examination of Russia’s excess military power on Wednesday reiterated those warnings. Perhaps the biggest one was given by Russia’s Brigadier General Rustam Minnekayev, who implied that Ukraine was the first on a list to retake the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

In his statement, Minnekayev explained the measure was part of Russia’s second phase of the war in Ukraine, which entails full control over the Donbas Region and Ukraine’s coast along the Black Sea. There was no indication of when the maneuver would begin.

Minnekayev describes the region as another entry point into Transnistria, which has oppressive conditions against Russians. Moldavia’s Transnistria is a separatist region dominated by Russian speakers, just like Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk, which has been run autonomously by a pro-Russian faction since 1990.

Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were all part of the USSR and are now members of NATO. If Russia is intent on recovering all the territory it had when it was the USSR, the famous article five says that an attack on one is an attack on all.    If this is truly the intent, it would be reasonable to conserve your military might. The longer this “Special Operation” continues, the more casualties mount on both sides, and the potential to escalate this war grows. 

Eventually, this war might spread beyond Ukraine’s borders. Even though to the report, Russia’s terrible performance during the first months of its conflict with Ukraine and the size of the setbacks and material losses it suffered should nevertheless compel further reflection on its ability to recover and challenge NATO militarily in the future.