There is an “ideological” factor behind Russian policies today that shouldn´t be neglected. It consists of components as religion, “Russian culture”, Russia being neither a part of the East nor the West and the nearly metaphysical role of the state.
For others the main drivers are geopolitical (often in combination with “ideology”). A Yalta – Potsdam approach. The world should be managed by great powers having spheres of influence. Ukraine, the Baltics and other neighbouring states should according to such a way of thinking be part of Russia´s sphere of influence.
Regarding Russia´s military strength there were some differing opinions. From, Russia not being able to conduct any large scale military operations in Europe to comments like, 90-100 000 well trained and well equipped troops should at least be able to achieve something, for example conducting a reasonably large operation. The presentations and discussions concerning this topic didn´t lead to any firm conclusions.
An area where all seemed to agree was that Russia´s military spending was nearing some 6 % of GDP, probably more if the costs for the operations in Donbas and Luhansk were included.
In the discussion concerning “correlation of forces”, Russia versus NATO, this quip perhaps is worth remembering “In Russian eyes it is probably not a question of correlation of forces – rather a question of correlation of will”.
Europe´s reactionsMost discussants were disappointed how Europe had reacted to the aggression in Ukraine. Europe had more or less been on the defensive all the time, not making it clear that Russia had violated, among other, the UN charter and the Helsinki Final act. And that Europe hadn´t acted on that, instead it had continued to see to the egoistic interests of different countries.
This and Europe´s inability to speak with one voice “who is Mr. Putin supposed to call” has led to a situation where Russia has lost respect for Europe. Europe´s reluctance, or rather refusal, to consider military means as a political tool has not helped in this respect.
As someone said “why are we surprised?”
US/NATO military prioritiesThe US is relearning how to reinforce Europe. In this context freedom of movement is vital, especially in the Baltic Sea region.
Exercises as Zapad 2013 but also the annexation of Crimea have shown that we have to increase our abilities when it comes to early warning, and also take Russia´s electronic/cyber warfare capabilities seriously. The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is a vital component when it comes to show that we are ready to meet different contingencies in Europe, and should train deployment to possible hot spots frequently.
Of course much more was said during the conference. Follow the link below to see the different sessions on video.