Are Russia’s Military Advances a Problem for NATO?

Artillery of the 2nd Taman Motorized Rifle DivisionIn Ukraine, the Russians have proved adept in many of the disciplines of modern high-intensity warfare.

In some areas, their skills and equipment are far more advanced than in comparable Nato armies. And many military analysts in the West are worried.

Russia’s edge derives from the fact that, for well over a decade, the Americans and their allies have largely given up high-end mechanised warfare and have been fighting counter-insurgency campaigns in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

What high-intensity combat there was – the initial invasion of Iraq, for example – was brief and the Western forces were overwhelmingly dominant. They controlled the skies and could gather intelligence and communicate at will.

As the commander of US forces in Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, noted ruefully in December of last year: “It’s been a very long time since American soldiers have had to worry about [an] enemy up in the sky… having the ability to drop bombs.”

In terms of communications, he added: “We have not had to worry about being jammed or being intercepted, that sort of thing.”

In the combat in eastern Ukraine, electronic jamming by specialised Russian units has been highly effective.

Indeed, Russia has won the battle in the electromagnetic spectrum hands down.

It has demonstrated a remarkable ability to locate Ukrainian units, to jam their signals, and then to bring down devastating fire upon them.

In some incidents, sizeable Ukrainian forces have been nearly wiped out in a matter of minutes.

The Russians have also shown a sophisticated ability to use drones, often in pairs; one to draw fire and the other to provide the targeting data for artillery or rocket forces who can instantly respond.

A recent British army study into Russia’s performance raised question-marks about the survivability of some of its own newest, but lightly armoured, vehicles in this new environment.

Image: Artillery of the 2nd Taman Motorized Rifle Division (photo: Russian Ministry of Defense)