Facing increased Russian aggressiveness: Popular militias, a potentially effective extra political and military instrument aimed at strategic deterrence
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University of Bucharest, Faculty of Political Science
Online publication date: 2017-06-23
Publication date: 2017-06-30
Security and Defence Quarterly 2017;15(2):38-53
The text starts by briefly exploring the present strategic situation on NATO’s Eastern rim. In a situation clearly dominated by sharply increased Russian aggressiveness, and by the fact that Russia has already made several attempts directly aimed at shaping, by force, a new regional and continental balance of power (see war against Georgia, in 2008, the annexation of Crimea, in 2014, and an extensive set of military actions against Ukraine), Russian plans and actions are legitimately worrying NATO and, above all, the small or medium-sized countries on the Eastern border of the North Atlantic Alliance. Starting mainly in 2014, Russian aggressiveness generated some significant reactions within NATO, including the political decision to increase defence budgets and deploying (mainly by rotation) military forces belonging to Western member states in the directly threatened countries. These countries (the three small Baltic republics, Poland and Romania) are also strengthening their defensive capabilities, buying new weapons systems, and by hosting or organising NATO defensive exercises. But all these deterrents are costly, and implementing them is time-consuming. It is for these reasons that the article examines the political- strategic necessity of implementing national policies aimed at quickly generating and consolidating potent popular militias. These militias, which are an obvious embodiment of a very strong political will at the national level, might be, if properly used, an extra significant deterrent, directly telling Putin’s regime it has no real chance of winning a quick and cheap victory, if it behaves aggressively against states on the Eastern rim of NATO. At this very moment, more than ever before (at least for almost 30 years since the end of the Cold War), NATO is confronted with the openly aggressive foreign policy, strategic plans and strategic actions of the Russian Federation.
The clearly perennial nature of the aggressiveness and imperial expansionism of Russia’s foreign policy is explored, with a lot of vivid details, for the years immediately after the end of the Cold War, in J. Bugajski, Cold Peace: Russia’s New Imperialism, 2004.
For the list of major crises between 1948 and 1991 see J.-L.Dufour, Crizele Internaţionale De La Beijing (1900) La Kosovo (1999) [ International Crises From Beijing (1900) To Kosovo (1999)] 2002, pp. 93-201; most of these crises have been directly associated with the central strategic competition of the Cold War.
The Alliance’s New Strategic Concept agreed by the Heads of State and Government participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council, 7-8.11.1991, http://www.nato. int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_23847.htm.
In order to better understand Russia’s behaviour in Chechnya see, for example, A. Liven, Chechnya: Tombstone Of Russian Power, 1998; see also some significant reactions of important Russian leaders: for example, Boris Yeltsin speaking “of the guilt he feels over the two wars waged by Moscow in Chechnya” - Yeltsin Speaks Of Guilt Over Chechnya, 8.10.2000, or Mikhail Gorbachev, when he openly “criticised the West for not being more vocal in opposing Russia’s first campaign in Chechnya between 1994 and 1996”, and openly spoke about the horrendous “bloodbath... in the Caucasus - Gorbachev Criticises Russian Policy In Chechnya, 4.12.1999, http://news.
For the fragments quoted here: The Alliance’s Strategic Concept Approved by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Washington D.C..Press Release NAC-S(99) 65, 24.04.1999, natohq/official_texts_27433.htm.
For better understanding, this war which took place in 2008, see R.D. Asmus, A Little War That Shook The World: Georgia, Russia, And The Future Of The West, 2010.
Strategic Concept For the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon, 2010, http://
Wales Summit Declaration Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Wales, 5.09.2014, natohq/official_texts_112964.htm.
S.M. Walt, The Origin Of Alliances, 1987, p. 17.
Zapad-2017 Exercise Puts Russian Army’s „Nervous System” To Test, defense/966366 [accessed: 19.09. 2017].
Teri Schultz, NATO Voices Skepticism Over Size Of Russia’s Zapad Military Exercise, 19.09.2017, exercise/a-39682346.
For this feature of Russian politics see, for example, J.N. Westwood, Endurance And Endeavour: Russian History 1812–1986, third edition 1987, 1988, pp. 23, 37, 64–71, 108– 110, 133-144 (for the 19th century), etc.
Putin said all these on the occasion of his annual state of the nation address to the Parliament, in 2005. See, for example, Putin Deplores Collapse Of USSR, 25.04.2005, http://
For the deployment of German military units in Lithuania, for example, see Hundreds Of German Soldiers Prepare To Deploy To Baltics For NATO, 19.01.2017, en/hundreds-of-german-soldiers-prepare-to-deploy-to-baltics-for-nato/a-37201832.
For the special situation of Poland, for example, the need to buy modern weapons was recently explored in a text published by the Atlantic Council: Gen. Sir R. Shirreff , M. Olex- Szczytowski, Arming For Deterrence: How Poland And NATO Should Counter A Resurgent Russia, 2016.
In July 2017, Jerusalem Post was reporting it is a “deal worth close to $8 billion” – see A. Ahronheim, Poland To Buy Israeli-Made Patriot Missiles, 10.07.2017, http://www.jpost. com/Israel-News/Poland-to-buy-Israeli-made-Patriot-missiles-499233.
J. Adamowski, Estonia Joins Finland In Howitzer Procurement, 6.02.2017, https:// The piece of news we are quoting here from was also stating “Estonia’s decision to acquire new ground warfare weapons reflects the increased concern of the three Baltic states over what they consider Russia’s belligerent behavior in Eastern Europe”.
R.-S. Marinas, Romania Intends To Buy Patriot Missiles From U.S. To Boost Defences, 20.04.2017, patriot-missiles-from-u-s-to-boost-defences-idUSL8N1HS4FO.
A. Mehta, Romania Cleared To Buy Patriot Missile Defense System, 11.07.2017, https:// missile-defense-system/.
L. Ilie (reporting), S. Powell (editing), Romania Says Any Patriot Missile System Buy Meant To Boost Defense, 15.07.2017, romania-says-any-patriot-missile-system-buy-meant-to-boost-defense-idUSKBN1A00EE.
Russia, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, world-factbook/geos/rs.html.
United States, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, the-world-factbook/geos/us.html.
J.L. Shapiro, A Tale of Two Economies, 29.11.2016, tale-of-two-economies-russia-and-the-us/.
Poland, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, world-factbook/geos/pl.html.
Romania, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, the-world-factbook/geos/ro.html.
Latvia, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, world-factbook/geos/lg.html.
Lithuania, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, the-world-factbook/geos/lh.html.
Estonia, in “The World Factbook”, 2017, world-factbook/geos/en.html.
G. Perret, A Country Made By War: From The Revolution To Vietnam – The Story Of America’s Rise To Power, 1989, pp. 3–10 (according to this text, at the end of the first day of fighting, the British regulars had had lost 65 dead, 180 wounded, and 28 missing, while the American militia casualties were significantly smaller – 49 dead, and more than 41 wounded).
Ibid., p. 16 (again, British casualties were significantly larger than those of the American popular militias).
Field Marshall Lord Carver, Britain’s Army In the Twentieth Century, 1998, pp. 1–6.
W. Churchill, Al Doilea Război Mondial [The Second World War], 1996, vol. 2, pp. 290–295.
S.G. Jones, In The Graveyard Of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan, 2009, 2010, pp. 18–43.
P. Goble, Lithuanian Popular Militia Expands to Defend Against Russian Threat, in “Eurasia Daily Monitor”, 7.03.2017, militia-expands-defend-russian-threat/.
Ministry of National Defence, The Concept Of Defence Of The Republic Of Poland, May 2017, p. 7.
Ibid., p. 48.
R.H. Shultz Jr., A.J. Dew, Insurgents, Terrorists, And Militias: The Warriors Of Contemporary Combat, 2006, p. 260.
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