Putin’s efforts to halt NATO expansion have been “a disaster” as his actions have added a “massive chunk of real estate and two very capable armed forces” to the alliance says Sir James Everard.
Sir James Everard KCB CBE, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was giving evidence to the Defence Commitee when he was asked the following by Sarah Atherton, MP for Wrexham.
“On NATO expansion, specifically Finland and Sweden, ratification is going to take between six and 13 months. We have to expect that Putin will try to hinder that process. Finland, in its own right, has its own F-35 programme and Sweden is described as a net contributor, but Finland doubles the length of NATO’s border with Russia. What are the implications of Sweden and Finland being members of NATO?”
Sir James Everard responded:
“For President Putin, it is a disaster. His whole purpose has been to halt NATO expansion and in a fell swoop he has doubled it with a massive chunk of real estate and two very capable armed forces.
I was in Sweden yesterday. They are now hugely pro the idea of joining NATO. Of course, they are enhanced opportunity partners. There are modalities for strength and interaction—that is the term, MSIs—that would underpin our relationship in crisis and conflict. It is not unusual to find a Swede or a Finn in a NATO headquarters. We exercise with them regularly. They were the biggest contributors to Trident Juncture.
We are pretty close already. In terms of defence co-operation, I know they are non-aligned, but they have an absolute network. I cannot list them all. They are part of the JEF; they are part of this; they are part of that. They are definitely going to bring added value to the alliance. I do not see them necessarily wanting anybody to turn up. They might look for someone to command them better, but we will see.
We have a lot to learn from them. There is a lot of attraction in their total defence concept. They are teaching children in primary school about the effects of disinformation and how to spot it. You cannot win a war today unless you take a whole-of-society approach. That is something that in the UK, probably because of the channel, we have never been very comfortable doing.”
Atherton then asked:
“In your wisdom and given your years of experience, what do you think Putin’s response will be?”
Sir James Everard replied:
“Putin often tells you what his response will be. He has said, “You should not do it.” Then we had the “energy off, energy on” thing. Now he has said, “Okay, fine, you can do it, but I do not want to see any NATO forces being positioned on your territory.” That will be up to Sweden, Finland and NATO commanders to decide.
The whole Russian campaign, from a professional point of view, has been abject. It is abject for a number of reasons, but primarily because it was not planned by the Russian general staff. The people who should have planned this operation did not plan it. As you see them getting a grip of what is going on, we should not be surprised if they start to make pretty significant gains pretty quickly. You can all track the battle. It is a concern.
Putin did not make a big speech the other day at his parade, because his generals are telling him that he is still going to win.”