LIMITS OF NATO SUMMIT SUCCESS
To listen to the news reports, the NATO summit was a disaster, with fighting between NATO partners on subjects ranging from Ukraine membership to supplying more ammunition to Ukrainian forces.
Despite displayed differences, NATO is much stronger than it was four years ago. There is no longer any serious debate on the need for NATO. Countries that never met the goal of using 2% of GDP for defense spending are now exceeding their goals. Even more positive, two formerly neutral nations, Finland, and Sweden, are either joining or on the cusp of joining.
Weaker NATO nations like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, who couldn’t stop a Russian invasion of their territory on their own, now have combat ready brigades from other NATO nations “in country” and ready to fight.
On the negative side, the question is when Ukraine should join NATO and how much ammunition and weapons are being used by Ukraine.
As it stands, Ukraine is somewhat closer to joining NATO than before. The US and Germany remain the major blocks.
As it is, Ukraine has achieved special status with NATO and now has bilateral defense agreements with each of the G-7 nations. Ukraine President Zelensky didn’t get all the weapons he wanted but remember that this mirrors the situation in early WWII, when British Prime Minister Churchill had problems receiving desperately needed weapons from FDR and the United States.
Unlike Churchill, however, Zelensky berated the NATO nations, which hurt his cause, if anything.
The major victory for NATO was Turkey’s agreement that Sweden should be allowed in NATO after months of dithering. In return, Turkey does want NATO nations to push for Turkish membership in the EU, a goal that was forgotten as Turkey and Erdoganstarted to cut back on human rights.
As we mentioned frequently when discussing Turkish and Russian relations, these two nations have a long history of fighting each other. Claims about who should have the greatest political influence in regions around the two nations continue to this day in Syria and Kurdistan. By supporting Sweden’s membership in NATO, membership in the EU, and releasing Ukraine Azov regiment commanders, Erdogan has provided Putin some political setbacks at a time when the Russian president is most vulnerable.
Turkey is also showing that it is willing to use Turkish Navy warships to escort civilian grain ships in the Black Sea – a clear challenge to Russia’s assumed control of that inland sea.
In another sign that Turkey’s foreign relations are taking a pro-Western turn, Turkey and Greece have announced that they will meet to discuss the issues that separate them. To prove the new relationship, Erdogan and the Greek Prime minister posed for photos at the NATO summit.
Of course, Turkey will receive tangible benefits. There is already discussion about selling modern F-16s to Turkey. And Turkey wants to rejoin the F-35 project, which it was forced to leave after buying the Russian S-400 air defense system.
It isn’t just Sweden, Greece, and Turkey that are forgetting past offensives. Ukraine and Poland have a long-term disagreement from WWII, over the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and its massacre of the ethnic Polish minority – an issue that Russia tries to bring up to keep tensions between Poland and Ukraine high.
This last week Polish President Duda and Ukraine President Zelensky came together to remember the innocent victims. It’s just a start, but it shows how the Russian attack has brought European nations together.
After Biden’s gaffe of mentioning America’s shortage of artillery ammunition, several nations noted how they are helping with production of new weapons and munitions factories.
The US has recently opened a new ammunition plant – the first contractor owned ammunition plant to start operations since the end of the Korean War.
German Rheinmetall is taking ammunition plants out of mothballs to produce ammo for Ukraine. The company is also opening a joint venture tank plant that produces Leopard 2 tanks in Ukraine. Since they are produced in Ukraine, they will not need export licenses to use them.
Turkey is also opening a drone factory in Ukraine. It has one of the most effective air defense systems – the factory is owned by the Son-in-Law of Turkey’s President Erdogan. It probably will not be attacked if Putin wants to improve relations with Ankara.
Meanwhile, Britain’s largest defense contractor, BAE, is dramatically increasing artillery ammunition production.
Who is Winning?
Most analysts expected more dramatic movement in Ukraine’s summer offensive. However, war isn’t as fast as movies or analysts’ predictions. General Patton beat the Germans in two hours in the movie ‘Patton,” but it took the Americans two years to win the victory in the field. It took the overwhelming power of the US, British, and Canadian Armies to break out of the Normandybeachhead a month after the D Day invasion.
War is slow, especially when it is a war of attrition, fought in trenches and minefields. Air superiority, which is a key component of NATO tactical doctrine, will not be available for Ukraine until they get F-16s and the pilots who can fly them.
The Russians have effective defenses in depth and counterattack whenever it is prudent. This is especially true in the northeastern front, where the Russians attack and gain ground, only to see the Ukrainians counterattack and regain some ground days later.
In and around Bakhmut, the Ukrainians are slowly gaining ground.
In Zaporizhzhia, the Ukrainians are slowly advancing through Russian defenses. The serious problems the Russians are having are indicated by the fact that Putin sacked Major General Popov because he asked for time to rest and refit his units.
Ukrainian missile units are targeting Russian ammunition and fuel depots that were once out of range of Ukrainian missiles. The British Storm Shadow missiles are hitting Russian logistic hubs. Since the Russians rely on rail lines through Donbas to support their units, in the West, it will have a big impact on units in and around Crimea.
One way we know that Ukraine is slowly advancing is that there are satellites designed to detect forest fires. In addition to detecting forest fires, they can detect the heat of artillery fire, which gives observers and intelligence analysts a way to track the movement of the front line.
The Ukrainians are advancing slowly – but they are on the offensive. Ukraine still has about 9 combat battalions in reserve. When and if the Russian defensive line breaks, these mechanized reserve units could start to move through Russian territory quickly.
The Ukrainians also have an effective guerrilla campaign in Russia. The latest proof was the assassination of former submarine commander Stanislav Rzhitsky, who used the Russian submarine Krasnodar to fire missiles against Ukraine.
Clearly, the disagreements at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania are not impacting the Ukrainian war effort. There remains general agreement on major goals – Ukraine membership in NATO and continuing material support for Ukraine. With Turkey’s change of heart, it seems that Sweden will finally join NATO later this year.
It seems the internal NATO differences on Ukraine are not going to affect the continued support of the war efforts until the popular discontents in key NATO countries start to be displayed in the streets.