Author Topic: Russia/US-- Europe  (Read 160465 times)

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: The Oil Weapon Against Moscow
« Reply #1050 on: March 26, 2024, 05:49:49 PM »
The Oil Weapon Against Moscow
In 1986 the U.S. and Saudi Arabia raised production. That move contributed to the Soviet collapse.
By Andriy Yermak
March 26, 2024 4:09 pm ET



Russia’s economy depends on the country’s natural resources, as it did in the Soviet era. Its growth depends on the price of oil—which contributed to the collapse of the Soviet empire and will determine Vladimir Putin’s current bid to restore the regime. It is oil that can thwart the Russian dictator’s revanchist ambitions.

In 1984, 613 million tons of oil were extracted in the Soviet Union—3 million tons less than in 1983 and well below that year’s target of 624 million tons. The Soviets sustained enormous financial losses because of the shortfall, exposing the vulnerability of the economy, which was depleting old oil deposits. To increase production, the U.S.S.R. needed Western technology. It also needed Western money, which it funneled into its military-industrial complex to threaten the West. When Mr. Putin turned energy into a geopolitical weapon, he was using an old Soviet playbook.

Then, the West saw an opportunity to erode Moscow’s finances by lowering oil prices and increasing output—as it should today. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia developed a plan to lower the price of oil. A reduction of $10 a barrel would mean a $10 billion loss for the Soviets over a year. Saudi Arabia, the most influential player in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, bucked OPEC’s consensus and increased production. The U.S. also stepped up production—and imposed an embargo on technology exports to the U.S.S.R. Oil prices plummeted even more than expected—to $12 a barrel. The colossal losses, combined with massive military spending, undermined the Soviet economy.

What happened later is well known: The U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1991. The world’s largest nuclear arsenal couldn’t save it.

But history shows that when Russia is flush with oil money, it tries to reassert its global dominance. Russia’s growth under Mr. Putin is thanks to soaring oil prices. In 2011-14, oil and gas revenue in Russia exceeded 50% of federal revenue. In recent years, oil and gas have accounted for up to 60% of Russia’s total goods exports and 40% of federal revenue.

Billions of dollars in oil and gas profits fuel the Kremlin’s imperialism and revanchism. The West must ratchet up sanctions to make Russia’s oil trade less profitable, while also increasing Saudi and U.S. oil output. The West should also cut off Russia’s access to technologies, including by imposing sanctions on intermediaries. Lowering oil’s price to $30 a barrel would help. But without new supply sources, price caps won’t work. Ukraine and the world need Saudi Arabia and the U.S. to take the lead. As in the 1980s, increasing production will tame both Moscow and Tehran, which is the key to peace in Europe and the Middle East.

I co-chair an international working group on sanctions with Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. According to estimates by our group, restrictions on Russian oil, including the European Union embargo and Group of Seven price cap, have cost Moscow $113 billion in export revenue since the invasion. Russia still allocated $102 billion for military spending in 2023, keeping the war machine well-funded and giving Mr. Putin scant incentive to negotiate. For Ukraine to prevail, oil prices must come down significantly.

The Kremlin is incapable of engaging in equal dialogue—it only pretends to do so. From 2014 to 2022, Ukraine conducted some 200 rounds of negotiations with Russia, seeking a peaceful resolution to Moscow’s attempted annexation of Crimea and temporary occupation of parts of Eastern Ukraine. Every time, Russia violated any arrangements. As long as Moscow refuses to recognize Ukraine’s international sovereignty, efforts at peace are futile.

Mr. Putin’s Russia, fueled by oil revenue, has no incentive to pursue peace, but instead aims to restore the U.S.S.R. and its sphere of influence. Mr. Putin isn’t bound by ideological principles other than a lust for power and will support extremists around the world to promote chaos. Pursuing this malign agenda requires oil revenue.

To save the world from another century of turmoil, the West must replicate the successful example from the 1980s. Once again, it can outmaneuver Moscow and Tehran and reclaim the initiative.

Mr. Yermak is head of the Office of the president of Ukraine

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: NATO weighs future Uke support
« Reply #1051 on: April 10, 2024, 01:54:43 PM »
April 8, 2024
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NATO Weighs Its Future Ukraine Support
The alliance isn’t ready to back down.
By: Antonia Colibasanu

NATO marked its 75th anniversary last week. The moment was naturally accompanied by talk about the future of the Ukraine war and the alliance’s support for Kyiv. On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg proposed creating a 100 billion-euro ($108 billion) fund to provide military support to Ukraine over the next five years, a move that would mark a significant milestone in the alliance’s backing for the country.

The idea was met with mixed reactions. Until recently, voluntary Western support for Ukraine has been coordinated through the Ramstein group (formally the Ukraine Defense Contact Group), a U.S.-led coalition of 56 countries, including all 32 NATO members. While NATO allies are expected to discuss the proposal at their gathering in July, European members seem set to approve it to send a message about their continued support for Kyiv.

Many of the details are up for debate, but Stoltenberg’s plan envisages a fund comprising contributions from NATO members with the aim of providing financial assistance to Ukraine over the next five years. The money would supplement U.S. support for Ukraine, while Congress holds up a key $60 billion aid package. For Europe, the main reason for the plan is that they worry that if Donald Trump wins the presidency in November, the position of European countries within NATO could be compromised. Indeed, Trump’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February – where he spoke of his desire for retribution against people, countries and organizations he believes mistreated him – seems to have compelled European governments to push for more action on Ukraine, as European NATO members are near the top of Trump’s list of adversaries.

At the same time, domestic politics in the leading European countries, most notably Germany and France, have also played a role. In Germany, some 82 percent of respondents in a recent poll said they believe NATO is important to securing peace in Europe, while only around 10 percent consider it is unnecessary. Even among supporters of populist parties that have been critical of NATO, such as Alternative for Germany and the newly founded Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance, only a minority are in favor of dissolving the alliance. In addition, seven out of 10 Germans believe the danger to European peace and security is serious or very serious, up significantly from five years ago. The result of this rising unease appears to be increased support for NATO, which has backed Germany’s plan to rapidly build up its military. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Chancellor Olaf Scholz established a special budget worth 100 billion euros to modernize the Bundeswehr. The majority of the money is tied up in orders for expensive military equipment. Furthermore, according to recent surveys, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is by far the most popular politician in Germany.

The situation in France is somewhat different. The leadership’s concern for Ukraine seems to outweigh that of the French public, which is more concerned with the country’s socio-economic problems. According to surveys, French business activity decreased for the 11th consecutive month in March, as demand for French goods and services weakened and employment fell. Moreover, Paris is trying to reassure financial markets after official numbers released last month revealed that the public deficit for 2023 exceeded government targets. With France already seeing high interest rates and Europe’s highest ratio of taxes to gross domestic product, the administration is considering reducing social benefits and local government budgets, a politically sensitive move in a country that values its social safety net.

Thus, it seems that French President Emmanuel Macron may have been trying to distract public attention by asking for more help for Ukraine, even calling recently for troops on the ground. France’s fiscal realities may hinder Macron’s call for further joint borrowing to fund European security programs, but his ambitions to lead Europe in a time of war remain. After all, unlike Germany, France has long had a formidable military and doesn’t need to rebuild it. Paris’ focus, therefore, is on public perceptions as it tries to assert itself as an important player in Ukraine – which will be key to boosting its posture in Europe and within NATO. France also recognizes the possibility that the U.S. may soon expect Europe to assume more of the burden for Ukraine (especially if Trump becomes president), which would require a transfer of responsibility from the U.S. to its European partners.

NATO’s potential future focus on burden shifting, rather than burden sharing, is also why France has tried to underline its efforts to help Kyiv. According to the French Ministry of Defense, the value of French military equipment delivered to Kyiv by the end of 2023 was 2.6 billion euros. Paris contributed a further 1.2 billion euros to the European Peace Facility, bringing its total spending on Ukraine to 3.8 billion euros.

The U.S.’ contributions still eclipse France’s, however. According to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. has spent the equivalent of 69.1 billion euros in financing and equipment for Ukraine, 18 times more than Paris. However, according to estimates from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, EU institutions combined provided the most military, humanitarian and financial help to Ukraine, followed by individual states like the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark. These figures show that Europe is already in a good position to boost its share of the burden.

Government Support to Ukraine

(click to enlarge)

Russia, meanwhile, will certainly exploit these measures in upcoming election campaigns in Western countries, painting the West as the aggressor and the main obstacle to a settlement to the conflict. All of this will be carefully considered as NATO gets closer to the July summit.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia--Moldova
« Reply #1052 on: April 22, 2024, 11:06:05 AM »


Moldovan politics. Anti-EU opposition parties in Moldova announced on Sunday that they are forming a new coalition to run in upcoming elections. The announcement of the Victory alliance, headed by fugitive businessman Ilan Shor, was made in Moscow. The pro-Russia leader of the semi-autonomous Gagauzia region, Evgenia Gutsul, is also joining the coalition and attended the ceremony.

Crafty_Dog

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FO: Poland ready to accept nukes
« Reply #1053 on: April 22, 2024, 11:27:22 AM »
(5) POLAND ‘READY TO HOST NATO NUKES’: Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Poland is ready to host NATO nuclear weapons in response to Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus.
“If our allies decide to deploy nuclear arms on our territory as part of nuclear sharing to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, we are ready to do so,” Duda said.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk seemed surprised by the statement.
Why It Matters: The statement drew a harsh response from Russia, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov again warning that Russia and NATO are “teetering dangerously” on nuclear war. These statements are not uncommon, but nuclear reposturing in light of a new weapons package to Ukraine is a dangerous development. – M.S.




Crafty_Dog

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British PM Rishi Sunak
« Reply #1057 on: April 28, 2024, 05:21:56 AM »
Britain Does Its Part in Ukraine and on Defense Spending
Our military budget will reach 2.5% of GDP by 2030. European allies need to step up as well.
By Rishi Sunak
April 26, 2024 4:01 pm ET



To China's frustration, the Aukus partnership between the U.S., U.K. and Australia to deliver Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines is gaining ground, despite funding challenges to the U.S. submarine industrial base. Images: U.S. Navy/Zuma Press/AP Composite: Mark Kelly
Britons understand and appreciate the vital role the U.S. plays in the world. We are proud to be Washington’s closest ally and welcome the supplemental support for Ukraine that Congress passed and President Biden signed Wednesday.

This funding will make a huge difference in the fight against tyranny in Europe. We welcome the administration’s leadership, which advances not only our interests but also those of the U.S.

China and Iran are closely watching what happens in Ukraine. A victory for authoritarianism and aggression would make us all less secure. For those who recognize the need for Europe to do more for its own security, America’s aid package is an inspiration and an incentive to do so.

The U.K. has acted. This week I announced a major and immediate increase in Britain’s support for Ukraine and in our defense spending, which will reach 2.5% of gross domestic product by 2030. We understand that being an ally means matching words with actions.

That is why the U.K. fought against fascism and communism, and alongside the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is why we both stood firmly with Ukraine and most recently joined in the defense of international shipping from Houthi attacks. It is why we helped protect Israel from Iran’s missiles and drones. When the going gets tough, we are a steadfast partner: a fellow permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, always by America’s side.

Since Russia’s invasion, the U.K. has been at the forefront of the coalition supporting Ukraine. We were proud to have been the first European country to mobilize lethal aid, from tanks to long-range weapons.

We know that being an ally also requires burden-sharing and investment. At the 2014 North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in the U.K., we agreed that each member state was to contribute 2% of its GDP toward defense. We spearheaded that effort because we worried that since the end of the Cold War, Europeans nations had been cutting defense budgets and relying only on NATO for their security. This wasn’t sustainable—and the U.S. and the U.K. are winning the argument for changing course. In 2014, only four NATO members spent 2% on defense. Today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg puts the figure at 18.

Since 2020 the U.K. has increased defense spending steadily, and as chancellor I granted the largest single increase in spending since the end of the Cold War. As Winston Churchill understood, failing to rearm only emboldens your adversaries. And as Ronald Reagan demonstrated, boosting defense spending is the best way to deter enemies and ensure our values prevail.

The U.K.’s increased investment has allowed us to commit to new capabilities such as the alliance among Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. Aukus will contribute to security in areas such as the Indo-Pacific—one of America’s top priorities. The U.K. also is putting more funding into our nuclear deterrent, which forms part of NATO’s nuclear umbrella, and the stockpiles vital to war readiness on the Continent and in Ukraine.

During a visit to Poland and Germany this week, I agreed to enhance our defense-spending commitments with the biggest single investment for a generation.

We will provide more for Ukraine—with a package that brings total U.K. military support to nearly $15 billion. Overall European support is now $180 billion. The U.K. was the first country to make a long-term security guarantee with Ukraine, which I signed on my visit to Kyiv in January. We will now commit to sustain our support for Ukraine at least at the same levels until the end of the decade.

We are also increasing overall defense spending. Our new baseline is 2.5% of GDP, effective immediately. This will mean an additional $93.6 billion for defense over the next six years.

As I told Mr. Stoltenberg this week, I hope this will become the new baseline for all allies. America should be assured that more European countries are stepping up. Our friends and neighbors are listening to our argument that we can’t expect America to pay any price and bear any burden if we on this side of the Atlantic aren’t prepared to invest in our own security.

Among America’s allies, including the whole of the rest of the Group of Seven, the U.K. is the biggest spender on defense by a significant margin. This is bolstered by our close intelligence cooperation and military interoperability. Above all, however, what distinguishes our partnership is our shared willingness to act.

The challenges to global security are growing. Members of an axis of authoritarian states—Russia, Iran, North Korea and China—are determined to challenge the post-Cold War order that has provided unprecedented prosperity. We must act to deter our enemies, defend our values and secure our interests. Our decision to increase our defense budget proves that—as it always has—the U.K. stands ready to play its role.

DougMacG

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Russian Studies, Prof Lawrence Freedman, Stanford
« Reply #1058 on: April 28, 2024, 03:52:04 PM »
https://samf.substack.com/p/escalation-red-lines-risk-and-the

Read in entirety.  Not fair to excerpt, but here is a current observation:

"Even if Trump wins the presidential election in November, that does not guarantee Putin a satisfactory outcome. Trump will want to push his peace plan but, from what has been reported, Putin will find the details as unacceptable as will Zelenskyy. Having publicly boasted for the past six months that Russia had seized the initiative in the war, Putin must now contemplate the possibility that it might yet again swing towards Ukraine."

ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #1059 on: April 28, 2024, 04:25:25 PM »
Asked how, Trump said he would meet both Zelensky and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, telling Collins, “They both have weaknesses and they both have strengths and within 24 hours that war will be settled, that war will be over.”

wow in 24 hrs!

he would be the greatest negotiator ever, by a lot!

I am a definite skeptic:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=song%20promises%20promises%20videos&FORM=VIRE0&mid=B7064ADDBB5DBDE3170AB7064ADDBB5DBDE3170A&view=detail&ru=%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dsong%20promises%20promises

Hopefully though, we will have the chance to see what Trumpster can do.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #1060 on: April 28, 2024, 05:38:33 PM »
We had the absence of conflict with Russia due to his craftiness and look what Baraq 3.0/Biden have done with  that.

He never dissed Putin personally-- not an accident!  If he has an honorable off ramp for Putin he might well be tempted.

DougMacG

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #1061 on: April 28, 2024, 07:26:38 PM »
"If he has an honorable off ramp for Putin he might well be tempted."

  Yes, this.  He already won what he wanted.  Now all these lives and deaths are about ego.

ccp

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #1062 on: April 29, 2024, 05:50:42 AM »
Well, if Trump gets in then perhaps this could happen.
I am thinking he would have to threaten Russia in some way
and also threaten to cease support to Ukraine if they don't deal.

I am certainly good with such a deal.
Not worth Donbass (mostly Russian speaking people I read anyway) or the small land around it, if you ask me.

To me this is the BEST option anyway.
Question is will Putin agree?
Will Zelensky agree?


Crafty_Dog

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Re: Russia/US-- Europe
« Reply #1063 on: April 30, 2024, 02:30:35 PM »


https://www.wsj.com/world/europe/nato-russia-spending-membership-eab4a10a?mod=hp_lead_pos9

Maps and graphics too
==================

NATO Prepares to Face Russia—and Problems of Its Own
By Daniel MichaelsFollow
April 30, 2024 12:01 am ET


ADAZI MILITARY BASE, Latvia—NATO troops from 14 nations amassed last month in a wooded area here to take part in the alliance’s biggest military exercise since the Cold War. Once again, the focus was Russia.

The drill began in the early morning darkness with a warning: Enemy forces had crossed Latvia’s border with Russia and were closing on the capital. Communicating in various languages over different kinds of radios, the troops raced to push the mock invaders toward wetlands that would bog down their tanks.

“What’s most important is to demonstrate readiness to act quickly and deploy to defend Latvian and NATO borders,” said Latvian Army Col. Oskars Kudlis, who was commanding a brigade of heavy armored vehicles from a position in the forest. The response required troops from as far away as Canada and Albania to work out kinks in communications, absorb one another’s battlefield practices and coordinate disparate weapons systems.

Ever since Moscow seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has had its eye on Europe’s border with Russia. This year’s exercise, called Steadfast Defender 2024, aims to send a message to Moscow: The alliance stands ready to defend its members—especially those near Russia’s border, including Latvia.

After the Cold War, differences in language, communications systems and weaponry within NATO mattered little because its troops rarely fought shoulder-to-shoulder. Instead, many rotated through short-term deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, planned long in advance. Equipment needs were clear and each ally handled its own provisioning.

Now, preparing for coalition warfare is once again NATO’s priority, and troops have to know how to work together on the battlefield. “The integration of all the countries is a challenge,” said Canadian Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Cox, who helped lead Exercise Crystal Arrow, the Latvian portion of the NATO maneuvers, which include air, land and sea drills across the alliance.

NATO, which marked its 75th anniversary on April 4, is getting stronger in some ways. Finland and Sweden have joined after decades of shunning membership. NATO’s European members are spending more on defense than they have since the Cold War. This year, for the first time in decades, the European members, on an aggregate basis, will meet their financial commitment to the alliance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said recently.

But the alliance is plagued by other disputes. Leaders disagree on whether Ukraine and other aspiring members should be allowed to join. The contest to succeed Stoltenberg later this year has sparked acrimony between longtime members and newer ones from the former Eastern bloc.

And many NATO countries, including six of its 12 founding members, remain far from hitting the military budgeting levels they pledged to achieve a decade ago. That low spending has made them the target of attacks from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, sparking doubts about the alliance’s future if he wins in November.


Throughout history, many military alliances—including those that defeated Napoleon and won World War II—involved allied armies operating separately under common command. NATO’s objective is to prepare allies to fight side-by-side.

This year’s exercises, the largest since 1988, are being staged over four months through May, at locations stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea. They involve roughly 90,000 troops, 1,100 combat vehicles, 80 aircraft and 50 naval vessels.

The operation in Latvia was one of several staged near Europe’s border with Russia. In 2016, after Moscow had seized the Crimean Peninsula and helped foment rebellion in Ukraine’s east, NATO members agreed to rotate troops constantly through its vulnerable eastern members, specifying which member nation would take the lead in defending each country.

The U.S. took the lead in Poland, Germany did so with Lithuania, the U.K. with Estonia and Canada with Latvia. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, NATO beefed up its forces in those countries and added partnerships in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

Border force
The defense of each NATO state along the alliance's eastern border is led by one member nation, with others supporting it.

Host countries

Other NATO members

FINLAND

NORWAY

Lead nation: United Kingdom

SWEDEN

Supporting nations: France, Iceland

ESTONIA

RUSSIA

Canada

LATVIA

Albania, Czech Republic, Iceland,

Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia,

Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain

Germany

LITHUANIA

Belgium, Czech Republic, Luxembourg,

Netherlands, Norway, U.S.

Baltic Sea

BELARUS

U.S.

Croatia, Romania,

United Kingdom

POLAND

UKRAINE

GERMANY

CZECH REP.

Czech Republic

SLOVAKIA

MOL.

Germany, Slovenia

AUSTRIA

France

HUNGARY

Hungary

Belgium, Luxembourg,

North Macedonia,

Poland, Portugal, U.S.

ROMANIA

Croatia, Italy, Turkey, U.S.

CROATIA

ITALY

SERBIA

Black Sea

Italy

BULGARIA

Albania, Greece, Montenegro,

North Macedonia, Turkey, U.S.

TURKEY

GREECE

Source: NATO
The partnerships have interwoven allies more closely than at any time since the Cold War, when the U.S., Britain and France kept troops permanently stationed in West Germany.

The Latvian exercise, staged near the capital, Riga, was one of NATO’s most international this year. Eleven member nations that already had troops deployed in Latvia, including Canada, were joined by forces from the U.S., Iceland, and Latvia’s neighbor, Estonia.

Canadian forces stationed in Latvia constitute Ottawa’s largest current overseas troop deployment. For many of those Canadians, defending against Russia is personal because they previously were stationed at a base in western Ukraine, training local forces in the years before Russia’s 2022 invasion. Two years ago, Moscow hit that base with missiles, destroying the barracks where Canadians had lived.


Canadian Army Lt. Col. Dan Richel, deputy commander of the Latvian operation led by Col. Kudlis, was posted with his family from Quebec to Latvia last August to help expand Canada’s presence. Most of his colleagues in the local headquarters are Latvian. He has started to learn the language, though most routine business is conducted in English, he said.


Latvian Army Col. Oskars Kudlis commended a brigade of heavy armored vehicles. PHOTO: DANIEL MICHAELS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
NATO countries agreed in 2014 that by this year each would spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defense.

Latvia, which was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1940 and didn’t win independence until 1991, will spend 2.4% of its GDP on defense this year, part of a plan to hit 3% in 2027. Canada allocates about 1.3% of its GDP to its military and has no plan to hit 2%.

NATO’s Stoltenberg and U.S. NATO Ambassador Julianne Smith chastised Canada this year for being among the only alliance countries not seeking to achieve the agreed target.


If Canada fails to meet its commitments, “how does that reflect on the coherence of the alliance?” said retired Vice Admiral Mark Norman, a former head of Canada’s navy who recently visited NATO headquarters in Brussels. Canada would probably increase defense spending only under duress “because the threat perception is just not there,” Norman said of the prevailing opinion inside Canada.

One of the alliance’s most fundamental divisions is a disparity in how member countries view threats. NATO lists terrorism and Russia as its main threats. Many officials in Turkey and other member nations along the Mediterranean Sea are more worried about regional conflicts, illegal migration and terrorism than about Russia.

Almost one-third of Latvia’s population of about 1.9 million people is Russian, a legacy of Soviet times. Tensions are high inside the country and along its borders with Russia and Belarus, an authoritarian state under Moscow’s sway.


Troops from 14 nations took part in Crystal Arrow. PHOTO: SGT. ERIKS KUKUTIS/LATVIAN ARMY
NATO planners consider an outright Russian invasion of a neighboring member country unlikely in the near future, though recently some military officials in NATO countries said Moscow could be strong enough to attack in a few years. Over the shorter term, they worry that Moscow might spark conflict in nearby countries by agitating local Russians and using tensions as pretext to intercede, as the Kremlin did in eastern Ukraine a decade ago.

Latvia joined NATO in 2004, 13 years after it gained independence from the Soviet Union. Since then, the alliance’s requirements and standards have compelled Latvia’s armed forces to modernize. Western military vehicles have replaced old Soviet models.

During the Crystal Arrow exercise, a battalion led by Latvian Army Lieut. Col. Gaidis Landratovs operated alongside U.S. troops. They played forces invading from the fictional nation of Occacus, identified with red Xs on their equipment. NATO avoids using names of real adversaries in training.

Canadian Lt. Col. Cox, temporarily stationed in Latvia to oversee NATO’s international battle group there, was commander of the defending forces, which included troops from 11 nations. When the mock invasion began, his forces moved and took defensive positions, awaiting word on their attackers.

Soldiers speaking different languages struggled to communicate. English and French are NATO’s official languages, but fluency varies.

Another problem, said Cox, was “radios that sometimes work together and most of the time don’t. But there’s always comms problems, no matter what happens.”


Operations succeed because of simple plans and integration, he said. “Every country has their own way of doing it, but the intent and the effect was the same across the battle group,” he said.

Uniformity has long been a challenge for NATO. In Crystal Arrow, allies deployed Canadian LAV-6 armored vehicles, American, German and Polish tanks, and Latvia’s British-made CVR-T reconnaissance vehicles. Each requires different spare parts and maintenance.

Standardizing big gear is daunting because producing it is a lucrative business that few countries want to surrender. The U.S. has about three-dozen main military systems such as planes, ships and tanks. In Europe, where most countries protect their national arms producers and often compete for export orders, alliance members use 172 models, according to NATO’s most senior military official, Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer.


Smaller equipment can be problematic, too. Planners have struggled for years to ensure that secure field radios from various countries are compatible, a challenge deepened by the need for digital encryption and measures to counter electronic warfare.

After the Cold War, such technical differences mattered little because NATO troops from different countries rarely fought alongside one another. Now, they need to be able to share equipment and know that one army’s cannons can fire another’s shells.

Alliance planners have set equipment norms and worked to ensure that gear operates interchangeably. But even for one of NATO’s most basic standards, 155-millimeter artillery shells, members produce 14 different models, Bauer said. Some shells can’t go into other launchers, while some may fit but not link to targeting software.

Many of the nearly 200 different weapons systems provided to Ukraine have come from NATO nations. The hodgepodge has created a maintenance nightmare for Ukraine, which has had to scrounged to obtain spare parts for many.

U.S. Army Capt. Malcolm Edgar, who commands Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles in Lithuania, said finding ways around differences is one benefit of multicountry exercises like Crystal Arrow.

“We’re not just saying we can do this together,” but showing it’s possible, said Edgar. “It’s all about getting the sets and reps in.”


This year’s NATO exercises, including the one in Latvia, involve roughly 90,000 troops, 1,100 combat vehicles, 80 aircraft and 50 naval vessels. PHOTO: SGT. GATIS INDREVICS/LATVIAN ARMY
Write to Daniel Michaels at Dan.Michaels@wsj.com