NATO after Vilnius: Chopping An Eel

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After the NATO meeting in Vilnius, its member countries must quickly find a common will to start a revision of the defence of the West and introduce disruptive technologies and their correct use in order to prevent or win the next war cost-effectively and quickly. The right lessons must be learned now from the war in Ukraine and the mistakes of the last three decades. There is no more time to waste.

Jaakko Puuperä, Editor-in-chief

Jaakko Puuperä, Chief-in-Editor of Nordic Defence Review.

Jaakko Puuperä, Chief-in-Editor of Nordic Defence Review.

EDITORIAL. Warfare is a time-intensive business. Or rather, using military means – organized violence or the threat of it – as a policy tool is time-intensive.

At the NATO meeting in Vilnius, supporting Ukraine became a central theme in the public eye. There were also murmurs from the ranks. NATO is at least mainly a front for democratic countries to defend democracies. Therefore, it would be crazy to expect that its decision-making would not be regrettably slow due to the observance of valuable democratic principles – at least when we are still living in somewhat normal conditions.

On the other hand, everyone also knows that NATO, or rather its member countries, only have a limited ability to support Ukraine. It especially applies to the mobilization, operational readiness, including material production capacity and stocks, which were reduced after the end of the Cold War

This brings us to an at least equally important topic that received less attention in the news coverage of the NATO meeting in Vilnius. It is also vitally related to supporting Ukraine, or rather the inability to help Ukraine now, when it would be the best time to make an impact. Ukraine’s counterattack seems to be going like Kerensky’s offensive in 1917. Even then, all support should have been given at the right time. It was already late in the fall. Resources were diverted to the Western Front and the war continued for more than a year. A senseless but inevitable all-consuming war, which the current situation in Ukraine is remarkably similar to.


The other topic that has received less attention is NFM – NATO’s New Force Model. The western European democracies are now slowly waking up from their daydreams of peace and realize that they have scrapped their ability to strike in three decades. The perception has begun to arise that if we are unable to help Ukraine when Russia is in a crouch, we will also not be able to guarantee the security of the member states in the current situation, should Ukraine not survive. Yes, we have a nuclear umbrella and some time. But that time should be used, now. The clock is ticking and decisions have to be made, urgently. With those decisions, we cannot end the war in Ukraine now, but we can buy time.

It requires will, resources and time to increase the production of war material and especially ammunition. The process starts with political decisions, allocation of public funds and investments – and ends with construction work, training and recruiting sufficient experts, thereby starting large-scale production and maintaining. Even in that sense, the current war resembles the First World War. Even then, the magazines were already empty in the fall of 1914. That’s why the war lasted. And wore out all. And was so devastating.

That’s why projects like NFM are very important. Supporting Ukraine is not about Ukraine, it’s about Europe waking up to reality. Therefore, decisions must be made, now.

Ammunition – or rather the effecting part of a weapon system, be it electronic or kinetic effect – is always the most critical part of a weapon system. It is true that now we need cannons, tanks, and especially grenades and missiles with load projectile (cluster ammunition) systems. That is, we need. Not only Ukraine, but also us behind Ukraine’s back.

A long, vulnerable tail

However, the lesson of the war in Ukraine is not that wars will continue to be settled by traditional means with cannons and tanks.

The next big war can no more be prevented than solved with cannons and tanks, unless it is fought by backward parties who are unable to do anything else or to use new weapons effectively. Surely those cannons with grenades will continue to be needed, but they are not a Disruptive Weapon System.

So what should we learn from Ukraine and the mistakes of the past decades?

First of all, it is of course true that we are forced to increase our extensive production capacity to meet the needs of the heavy forces. Also, we need to train the producers, users and experts for it. We can’t avoid it at a moment. But the real lesson of the war in Ukraine is that heavy forces have too heavy and too long logistical tail.


Now, we should develop the disruptive solutions that eliminate the need to manufacture huge quantities of cannons, tanks and millions of grenades for the never-ending, attrition warfare. Ways to cut the beast’s tail. For this beast is not a lizard. It does not grow a new tail but dies without its tail like an eel, quickly drying up.

Cutting off the logistical tail by various means and then striking an unattended force by fast-moving light forces, supported by different means (information war, electronic warfare, conventional kinetic effect) from a distance is the disruptive key.

History is full of examples of this. But there are even more of such situations where, after cutting off the tail, there was not enough power to affect and destroy the opponent who had been rendered powerless on the field. To name a few, Finland’s winter war and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

War is a time-intensive business and it is won or lost long before it starts.

We still have time. Time to prevent the next war by credible development of disruptive technologies and the ability to use them effectively.

The decision must be made now.

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