Good Reasons for Russia to Not Retaliate Against NATO Provocations
19:59 03.02.2024 (Updated: 20:01 03.02.2024)
NATO is actively participating in the Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) in favour of Ukraine, of that there can be no doubt. However, NATO participation is currently grey zone and low-key.
Besides providing weapons, training, intelligence, targeting data, operation planning support and situational awareness to the Ukrainian forces, NATO personnel are also likely participating in attacks on Russian territory, particlura on Crimea.
NATO aircrew and military personnel, in the air and on the ground, flying AWACS and airborne manned and unmanned ISR platforms, analysing and processing intelligence data during Ukrainian attacks on Crimea are all active participants in the NATO military campaign against Russia.
Russia's Right to Self Defence
Many pro-Russian military analysts express frustration on social media over Russia's restraint to not shoot down US and NATO airborne ISR assets participating in Ukrainian attacks, in exercise of Russia's right to self-defence. Technically, these analysts are not wrong. However, military campaigns need to be guided, not by technicalities, but by the goals of the military campaign.
Russia has ignored NATO participation in Ukrainian military operations, not out of weakness, but out of the strength of a winner. It is important for the success of the SMO, that Russia continues to ignore NATO provocations while doing its best to prevent them, or contain their effectiveness.
Based on the current tactical situation and the prevailing strategic backdrop, there can be no doubt that Russian forces will eventually overwhelm Ukrainian forces
, albeit in a slow grind.
A good reason for Russia to avoid an escalation would be that it is highly unlikely that Russian forces could similarly overwhelm NATO forces - in a slow grind without unacceptable losses. In a NATO - Russia war, both sides will likely experience heavy casualties.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin was forced to launch the SMO, in the face of US and NATO intransigence over NATO's relentless eastward expansion to Russian borders, he set some very clearly articulated goals - To liberate the territories occupied by Ukrainian forces
belonging to the former Ukrainian regions that had merged with Russia; denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine.
An important principle of war is to not change the goals of a military operation midway through the campaign. Doing so is a recipe for disaster. Such a change can upset the rhythm of the campaign, completely negate the benefits accruing from the thorough planning and preparation for the campaign and, most perilously, cloud the difference between a successful and failed military campaign.
Russia’s aim is not to fight and defeat NATO, it is to denazify and demilitarise Ukraine. Russia is well set in the campaign to achieve its goals completely.
Understanding the Reason for NATO Provocations
NATO’s low key direct military participation in the SMO is likely designed to derail the Russian campaign, dislodge it from its current winning trajectory. The aim is to provoke Russia to fight NATO, not Ukraine.
A Russia - NATO clash will most likely be very fierce and destructive to begin with, but it will quickly lead to a military stalemate to prevent a nuclear escalation. Such a stalemate would achieve nothing for Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine. Russia would end up continuing to fight Ukraine after having fought NATO.
NATO's active participation so far has not dented Russia’s ability to achieve its SMO goals; it is unlikely that at its current level the participation would be able to do so in the future. It is, therefore, important for Russia not to allow a well thought out military campaign to degenerate into emotional tit-for-tat duelling that allows the adversary to leverage his superiority in resources and manpower.
Russia’s SMO is well thought out, because Russia waited patiently for years to gain the military capability required to stop NATO’s eastward expansion
, even as it exhausted every possible option to negotiate a peaceful halt to the expansion. Russia has never contemplated fighting and defeating NATO.
Russia could counter NATO interference at current levels by asymmetric (military, economic, geopolitical) Russian interference against US and NATO interests in other global trouble spots.
There is evidence that Russia’s campaign in Ukraine has already proved detrimental to NATO interests worldwide, by encouraging developing nations to move towards multipolarity, for example.
The world is getting sharply polarised. In the long term, this polarisation will prove detrimental to US hegemonic interests.
If NATO participation in the SMO increases beyond current levels, Russia could surreptitiously or openly aid some countries' campaigns against the US and NATO bases and assets in the Middle East.
End Game Dynamics Require Caution
The Russian SMO has entered a critical phase. Ukrainian forces are weakening to an extent where they are no more able to hold their lines. Russia’s military industrial complex is working in top gear
, inexorably widening the gap between Russian and Ukrainian military capabilities. Ukraine cannot afford to delay peace negotiations for very long now. The Ukrainian President may or may not see the inevitability of a Ukrainian collapse, but the US and EU likely see it clearly.
There is circumstantial evidence that the US may engineer a regime change in Ukraine to facilitate the start of peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Victoria Nuland’s recent visit to Kiev and the widely acknowledged and reported differences between the chief of the armed forces of Ukraine General Zhaluzhny and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky being indicators.
While it is logical for the West to seek peace at this stage of the Russian military campaign, when Ukraine is still a viable entity, it is also logical for the West to seek peace under the best possible terms, for Ukraine and for NATO.
Viewed from NATO's perspective, the best way to extract concessions from Russia would be to engineer military setbacks for Russian forces and in doing so, if required, cross more Russian red lines. Wickedly enough, the US may try to leverage its conviction that Russia's desire for peace exceeds US desperation to maintain global hegemony.
Russia should consider striking back at NATO, only if NATO interference increases to an extent where the ability of the Russian forces to achieve SMO goals is compromised.
The ability of the Russian people to absorb pain has been critical in past Russian military victories against powerful adversaries. It is likely that the Russian leadership and people will come good once again.