Ukraine’s President Zelensky hopes that NATO will assist Kiev in forcefully expelling Russia from Crimea and re-taking control of the breakaway Donbass. This dangerous fiction could lead to the destruction of his troubled country.
However, any military action by the alliance against pro-Russian forces would be crushed. But if mankind blunders its way into a major conflict in 2021 historians will need to know, to understand its origins and the parts played by the shortcomings and strategic missteps of ill-suited leaders.
According to Zelensky, there is only one pathway for resolving the ongoing dispute between his nation and Russia over the status of the Crimea and the ongoing fighting in the pro-Russian eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbass.
NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbass,” Zelensky declared in a recent phone call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Zelensky called for the implementation of a ‘Membership Action Plan’ delineating Ukraine’s entry path into the NATO alliance.
Zelensky’s militant directive and blatant appeal for NATO membership did not go unnoticed by Russia. Nor did the deployment by the Ukrainian military of hundreds of armored vehicles and thousands of troops into the region, a fact that has been “under-reported” in the west.
A military exercise conducted some 30 miles from its border with Ukraine, involving 4,000 troops, was originally scheduled to end on March 23, 2021.
A decision by Moscow to keep its forces in the field prompted the US military’s European Command to raise its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis – the highest level.
President Zelensky likes to promote the idea of a Ukraine-NATO alliance by advocating for an increase in military training between the two. Russia has sought to throw cold water on any such move, noting that it would be forced to respond if NATO troops were deployed to Ukraine.
The reality is that NATO is not in any position to intervene militarily on behalf of Ukraine, even if it were so inclined. Its ground combat capability has deteriorated significantly since the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Almost all of NATO’s actually deploy-able combat power has been assembled in Poland and the Baltic Republics as part of a scheme to deploy four battalion-sized ‘battle groups’ designed to deter Russian military aggression in northern Europe.
The ability on the part of NATO to generate in short order a similar combat-ready force capable of deploying into Ukraine is currently non-existent.
NATO does maintain what it calls a “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force” of around 6,400 troops. This force is built around a brigade-sized unit from one of NATO’s member states, rotating on an annual basis. Last year, Poland had responsibility.
This year, the burden has fallen on 4,200 troops of Turkey’s 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, supported by smaller units from Albania, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the UK, and the United States. Even under non-combat conditions, it would take days for this task force to assemble and deploy to Ukraine.
In a time of war, it would be expected that the task force would be under constant attack from the moment it crossed into Ukraine, making the likelihood of a combat-capable force reaching the front-line highly unlikely, if not impossible.
NATO’s best option would be to deploy its air forces in support of Ukraine. But the viability of such an option is close to zero. NATO has not trained to fight against the kind of integrated air defense system that Russia has deployed around Ukraine.
Its ability to project any meaningful air combat capability over Ukraine, let alone seize and maintain the kind of superiority necessary to support any forces engaged in combat operations, is virtually nil.
Perhaps NATO’s best bet comes in the form of the US Air Force’s newest 5th generation fighters – the F-22 and F-35. According to the US military, their pilots have been undergoing significant training in preparation for any conflict against the Russian military.
For example, in a large-scale exercise known as ‘Red Flag’ last year, the F-35 and F-22 were able to achieve a 20:1 kill ratio against a notional Russian force flying SU-30-type aircraft.
But a similar exercise in Australia in 2008 involving a computer simulation of an attack by Russian SU-30 aircraft against F-35’s and F-22’s had the Russians coming out ahead.
The F-35 in particular was described as “double inferior” to the SU-30, with experts noting that the advanced US fighter “can’t [out]turn, can’t [out]climb, can’t [out]run” its Russian opponent.
But making matters worse for the US Air Force is the fact that, since 2019, Russia has been gaining invaluable first-hand intelligence on the performance and operation of both the F-22 and F-35.
The US operates both aircraft from bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where they have been involved in combat operations in Syria and Iraq. Russia has deployed its advanced S-400 air defense system in Syria, and its radars have become quite adept at detecting and tracking the supposedly ‘stealth’ aircraft.
Moreover, Israel has flown its own F-35 aircraft over Syria and Lebanon, providing the Russians with more opportunities to prepare the S-400 for potential combat operations against the advanced fighters.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2021.