The Human Security Centre (HSC) has published a report ‘Fire and Ice – A New Maritime Strategy for NATO’s Northern Flank’, discussing the challenge posed by Russia, and the options NATO has for countering it.

The HSC is an independent international affairs think-tank based in London, with interests in foreign, defence and security policy. The organisation say it produces a wide range of digital publications, submits evidence to parliamentary inquiries and provides advisory support to policymakers.

In the report, the HSC say it has examined:

  • the regeneration of Russia’s military capabilities and the doctrine they support;
  • potential scenarios for the use of military force by Moscow, and;
  • the role of NATO maritime power in deterring and, if necessary, countering hostile action by Russia.

The report can be found here.

The report contains a series of warnings and findings, chief amongst them is the view that if were Moscow to launch hostilities, it is likely that Russian forces would be able to overrun vulnerable areas of NATO territory – including the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – before adequate reinforcements could be deployed.

The report also advises that Russian forces would subsequently seek to deter and, if necessary, combat a major NATO response to such an attack. If required, Moscow has the capability to:

      • conduct limited interdiction of shipping bringing forces across the Atlantic from the US;
      • engage in precision-guided conventional strikes by using cruise and ballistic missiles against militarily, economically and politically sensitive targets in locations across Europe, including the UK;
      • hinder NATO access to key sectors of airspace.

In response, the report recommends:

“Were Russia to initiate hostilities in Eastern Europe, NATO should adopt a strategy of ‘horizontal escalation’ by widening the conflict to include actions within Russia’s northern maritime approaches – an effort which may include direct strikes against Moscow’s strategic assets.”

HSC Senior Fellow and author of the report, Dr Rowan Allport, said:

“The recent Exercise Trident Juncture 2018, the US Navy’s decision to reform its Second Fleet to coordinate North Atlantic operations, and a parallel effort by NATO to set up its own Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, are all encouraging signs that the Alliance is taking the northern maritime realm seriously after a near exclusive focus on Eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s actions against Ukraine.

However, much more remains to be done. Russia represents at threat to NATO’s sea lines of communication through the use of advanced submarines, is capable of targeting the alliance with a growing arsenal of conventional strategic weapons such as the Kalibr and Kh-101 cruise missiles, and continues to build-up its facilities in the Arctic. A firm commitment is now required by the Alliance to rediscover the forward maritime strategy that helped contribute to winning the Cold War.”

Other key recommendations outlined in the report include:

  • The UK’s Royal Navy should take the lead in any early effort to counter offensive Russian submarine operations via a multi-national task group centred upon one of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
  • NATO requires a pro-active strategy to degrade and defend against Moscow’s ship, submarine, air and ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile capability based in and staging out of the Arctic region – a campaign that would require a wartime multi-carrier deployment by the US Navy and the basing of substantial forces in Iceland, the UK and Norway.

HSC Director and Arctic expert, Dr Dwayne Menezes, added:

“Russia, under Putin, continues to allow dog-whistle politics of civilisational difference and siege mentality to push the boundaries of what might be termed ‘defensive’, and governs with ambitious militarisation within and military adventurism beyond. Thus, even Russia’s most ardent admirers must watch with dismay a great cultural, intellectual, political and economic power of our age reduce itself to a rogue state, repeatedly indulging in insecurity-fuelled thuggery to prove its might and forever at odds with international law and even states that would rather be close trading partners, neighbours and friends.

When it comes to the Arctic, however, peace and cooperation has prevailed, not miraculously but by conscious choice and concerted action. After all, when one considers the opportunities and challenges arising from a changing Arctic, it is clear that peace and cooperation is in everyone’s interest. Yet, ensuing as they both do from a delicate balance, it is imperative that the balance be carefully maintained. Moreover, given the Arctic is not removed from, or immune to developments in, the adjacent North Atlantic, Nordic, Baltic and North Pacific regions, it is in the interest of every state, including Russia, for the Alliance to be capable of maintaining the vital balance in an ever-more integrated North.”

This comes not long after General Mark Carleton-Smith, the Chief of the General Staff, claimed that Russia is a greater threat to Britain than Islamic State.

Recent events have gone a long way to proving him correct.

Chief of the General Staff (the professional head of the British Army), General Mark Carleton-Smith, said:

“The Russians seek to exploit vulnerability and weakness wherever they detect it. Russia today indisputably represents a far greater threat to our national security than Islamic extremist threats such as al-Qaeda and Isil.”

General Mark Carleton-Smith has played a leading role in many recent operations at home and abroad, including the campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, supporting to British Overseas Territories impacted by Hurricane Irma and the military’s support to areas badly affected by the snow earlier this year.

While speaking to The Telegraph, he also mentioned the danger posed by Russian attempts to undermine the UK using unconventional means, saying:

“Russia has embarked on a systematic effort to explore and exploit Western vulnerabilities, particularly in some of the non-traditional areas of cyberspace, undersea warfare,” he said.

“The Russians seek to exploit vulnerability and weakness wherever they detect it,” he added.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Judging by the state of the German forces and the lack of proper spending almost everywhere else I think vulnerable space could be construed as any country east of the channel.
    If the U K is scheduled to counter the Russians in the North Atlantic by using a carrier battle group we would have been better off building 20 or 30 conventional submarines.

  2. NATO needs some decent offensive fire, almost everything seems geared towards defence. More cruise missiles ballistic missiles and heavy artillery within striking distance of Kaliningrad and Crimea would be a start

  3. What total retards! I think the Russian threat gets blow way out of proportion! Russia doesn’t have the balls or money to atack a NATO nation! Russia’s economy is smaller than Italys, and Russia couldn’t afford a war… The EU alone pays Russia billions for a GAS that would stop and Germany for e.g.would need to get it elsewhere. And Russia might have a large land army but most of the equipment is old Cold War junk and the Russian army’s made up of conscripts who don’t even want to be there. And nukes are obviously out of the question!… In a way I want the Russian threat to be more hyped! It might give our government a kick up the ass and get them to spend more on defence say 3-4% and the British army 150,000 minimum with 50,000 reservists and even that’s a small number!… oh and the government might stop adding pensions ect into the dam defence budget… I dread to think what the British millitary would be like without the “Russian Threat” far worse probably…

    • I agree that that the threat is blown out of all proportion, but if Russia isn’t actually a real threat, then why on Earth would we need to spend 4% on defence and have an army of 200’000? If Russia can’t and won’t attack a NATO country, who will we be fighting that requires a “small” army of that size? I’d say 2% is fine and the rest can go to health and education etc.

      • It’s china that’s building a huge force, will be far bigger than Americas… And already has millions more troops and is building a huge Navy. So we do need to spend 3/4% on defence.

    • I think there are many risks from Russia. With regard to the financial issue. Yes they are not a financial powerhouse, however Putin also could not care less about the plight of the Russian people so spending on social care etc is not a factor, neither is spending on infrastructure that is not critical to Putins plans. (Roads in Russia have been left to fall into disrepair and no one is allowed to complain about it). Basically Russia has the potential for far less outgoings than a modern democratic country and can therefore spend a much larger proportion on the military (and Putins palaces). It also has Nuclear Weapons which means it has a hand to play when the going gets tough. It could potentially invade most of eastern Europe cause chaos and then fall back when it feels it is time to do so with little threat of being invaded itself. In doing so it could easily end up controlling many of the old soviet countries.

      I do however think the biggest threat is from disruptive behaviour with regard to the general running of western countries. The Fake news issue is so easy for them to exploit and so hard for us to counter. We have already seen these activities potentially influencing Brexit and Trump votes along with various other intrusions in democracy in other countries.

      All that being said, I think the biggest threat is from China, not Russia. Russia could even end up on our side in that particular issue.

      I do think it is a massive shame that Putin has taken Russia down this bath though. For a while it looked like Russia was moving towards a more friendly stance which was seemingly of benefit to everyone involved. The Russian people are nice and are proud, and Russia as a country would be an astounding place to tour around. The people of Russia deserve much better than Putin.

    • Russia is not going to strait out attack NATO, that would be idiotic, attacking a stronger opponent at its point of strength is bonkers, Russia will attack NATO at its weak points:

      1) lack of Political unity
      2) isolation of individual NATO nations
      3) Ethnic Russian populations
      4) information and propaganda
      5) democratic processes
      6) Energy dependency
      7) cyber
      8) Nations moving away from the West (Turkey)

      If you add China to the mix you also add a couple of other weaknesses:

      1) Ecconomic
      2) Access to tec resources ( who makes all the tec components and produces 90% of the plants rare earths)

      Russia is not looking to defeat the West, its looking to weaken its resolve around supporting/expanding its influence into the Russian Near abroad and protecting Russian dissidents, thus allowing it to continent to develop a Story of making Russia great for the domestic audience.

      The one complication is that Russia is still a Nuclear “Superpower” from taking MAD into account.

      China on the other hand is looking to take the USAs seat as Pre-eminent World power and that’s likely to end in a lot of blood at some point.

      NATO really is not looking at all convincing in regards to protect attacks against its weaknesses. Any investment needs to be linked to a strategy of managing War by other means from both China and Russia, with an Eye on a potential future conflict with China (maybe or maybe not supported by Russia)

    • Ha, “Current and Impartial” but Censored If you Type something Un Palatable , That’s the British way at the moment. Long live Free Speech. lol.

      • Well I know the comment was published because it was in the body of the other comments. It wasn’t as if I pressed on Post Comment and it went and neither did I have a glitch with my connection.

        Perhaps I have found out why this site doesn’t use Disqus……..

        • Sorry steveskie!!! you are talking out of your a#s, this site has never used censorship because your comments are pro putin,for a good example your mate solesurvivor silly comments on how Novichoks was the british goverments doing never got censored.Why dont you just post it again?.

  4. My thoughts, for what It’s worth. Putin Is nothing short of a Dictator, a short one at that, One that has been pushed Into a corner, one that eyes previous lost Territory with disdain. It’s a total Disgrace that “We” choose to Ignore the threat potentially aimed towards us.
    History Repeats Itself and It most definitely Is now except that This Dictator has Nukes and Lots of them.
    Hope I’m wrong but Christ, The Signs are all there and “We” are Ignoring them, again. Ukraine will be the next Test.

  5. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    Increase the military in size and in finances.

    And talk to Putin. Where do we go if he is treated as a Pariah, whatever the Russians have done. They have their greviences too.

  6. Completely agree we need to talk. As much as some here underestimate Russian capabilities -they have got a big stick. Those that talk about their logistics, well they’ve been sustaining operations in Syria Ukraine and Georgia for a long time so they can’t be that bad and economic comparison with Italy is junk when you factor in PPP

  7. What is the reasoning behind having an anti-submarine task group centred on one of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers? Is the carrier there to provide air cover for the task group, or do the carriers account for so many of the RN’s Merlins that there wouldn’t be enough for the ASW role unless one was present?

    • Naval types will correct me I’m sure but the way I see it the carrier does both. Dominates the surrounding sea and provides defence while acting as a base for a whole squadron of Merlins.

      Which are a bigger punch asw wise than single Merlin aboard a handful of T26 or T23.

  8. its hardly news that Russia can over run the Baltic’s. They are surrounded on three sides by Russia. Russian subs are a big threat however I doubt they would use cruise missiles short of world war 3. More likely to attack pipelines and data cables. The UK should implement a crash program building UUV’s and USV’s to counter the threat of Russian SSK’s.

    The RN needs to stop seeing the frigate as the end all of ASW capability when they are often sitting ducks themselves. Even unarmed autonomous vehicles can be deadly to a submarine as their sensors rob it of stealth.

  9. ” Royal Navy should take the lead in any early effort to counter offensive Russian submarine operations”: The RN needs more frigates fully ASW capable, more hunter killer subs, more ASW helicopters & more MPAs.

    Most of the “vulnerabilities” in the west are self-inflicted, short-sighted economies which create a threat to peace & stability in themselves. Nor should we underestimate our enemies or feel too secure defended by so much untried gear.

  10. “Conduct limited interdiction of shipping bringing forces across the Atlantic from the US;
    engage in precision-guided conventional strikes by using cruise and ballistic missiles against militarily, economically and politically sensitive targets in locations across Europe, including the UK;
    hinder NATO access to key sectors of airspace.”

    They have always had that capability even in the Cold war era. The key word is limited. They could not sustain a full on Team Yankee/Red Storm Rising scenario in todays world. The capability is simply not there.

  11. My question is, what exactly is Russia’s end game here?

    It seems to me that logically speaking, they’d be better off trying to fix their economy and using the huge potential of their resource base to become an industrial superpower. Easier said than done I know, foreign competition, unstable markets and all the rest of it. However it’s certainly easier than antagonising your neighbours and increasing military spending.

    • Putin has a very simple and “Russian” set of policy aims ( the West know them very well).

      1) The near abroard, this is a long time Russian national obsession in which the Motherland can only be safe if Russia controls or has influence over boardering nations. This comes from a number of national traumas running back to the Napolionic Wars, Europe invades Russia historic fact, whatever we in the west say will never counter the 10s millions of dead Russians speaking through history.

      2) Russia has sovereignty over ethnic Russians wherever they abide, this is classic post imperial\Multinational state thinking and has historically caused a shedload of pain whenever empires dissolve.

      3) Ensuring his own power by “protecting the mother land” via 1 and 2, Russia has always generally been governed by a “strongman” whose job it is to protect the Russian state from outsiders, if he does that he stays in power.

      As the West made it very clear that 1 and 2 are not options they can live with, Russia is ( must) attack the west to weaken its resolve. Russia cannot match the West Militarily or Economically so is using “ war by other means” to attack the west at its weakpoints.

  12. Ironically yesterday I watched the World of War episode considering the U Boat menace, with the iconic and irreplaceable Laurence Olivier.

    Again the thought struck me that this threat is rather overblown.

    By all means increase ASW if a potential ( I don’t say real ) enemy is increasing their Submarine capability but lets not get carried away.

  13. If was to make historical comparisons it would be that the old Soviet Union was like Hitler a genuinely existential threat. Putins Russia is like Mussolini. So long as we aren’t stupid or gullible there’s not much to worry about. For example they might be able to take the Baltics but the chances of them keeping them are zero. In a conventional war with NATO they would be slaughtered. They must know that. The only problem would be if the ‘Duce’ convinces himself otherwise.

  14. We all want more defence spending for the UK. But ask any upper tier Russian what they think about Russian forces beating NATO and they would laugh their gold Rolexes off.

    Lockheed Martin / BAE need to sell 2000 odd JSF the only way to keep those orders is if you have a ‘real’ enemy. Hence why we hype up the Russian threat which coincidently is exactly what Putin wants as it reinforces his own propaganda and position back home.

    So win win for everyone! The western military industrial complex fills its order books and Putin and his gang of crooks pilfer the people.

    You could make a case that Putin is the US state and defence departments wet dream. With him there will never be a EU / German / Russian alliance and defence budgets stay high.

    Re Russian hacking, it’s well known that Putin like Merkel has to use typewriters for Comms as everything has been hacked by gchq and the NSA.

    Putin well and truly screwed Russia.

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