With over 1,30,000 Russian troops deployed in the contested regions of Crimea and Donbas along with Ukraine's border, several NATO allies are sending in their reinforcements and military support to cushion the situation if Russia turns the nightmare of invading Ukraine truce.
Ukraine, in comparison, is simply equipped with a military force of around 250,000 personnel which evidently would not be sufficient to deal with Moscow's intentions if they turn so. Several NATO allies have chipped in their contribution to safeguarding Kyiv, while several of the NATO allies have commenced or shown their "readiness" to contribute to the NATO forces.
NATO Amid Tensions
NATO has been working to build a partnership with Russia for more than two decades by developing dialogue and practical cooperation in areas of common interest. However, since 2014 when Russia illegitimately annexed Crimea, this Practical cooperation has been suspended, which shall never be recognised by NATO, but as per official reports, the military and political channels of communication remain open.
Understanding all of this, the question arises on the military preparedness of NATO if it witnessed an armed conflict with Moscow shortly?
Currently, NATO's Response Force houses a 40,000-strong force ready to mobilise in the event of a crisis which includes a high-readiness army brigade of 5,000. For operating special operational forces across the alliance, warships and warplanes, NATO has an inventory of 15,000 military personnel for the same. In contrast, if a crisis lasts beyond a few days or weeks, another 20,000 military personnel are kept ready to follow up, but all this put together sums up to 75,000 troops, which is much smaller than what Moscow has deployed.
To fill in necessary gaps, several NATO allies have made their military contributions to aid Ukraine in the time of war, while NATO also has a set of emergency troops with four battle groups of around 1,000 soldiers each based in Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
Military Contributions To NATO
Keeping the above-cited situation in view, several allies have announced upcoming or current deployments in the past few days. With that, ships are being sent to NATO naval forces by Spain and are considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria while in support of NATO's long-standing air policing mission in Lithuania, around four F-16 fighter jets are being sent to be deployed by Denmark along with a frigate to the Baltic Sea.
That said, some military personnel to the NATO battle group in Estonia are also contributed by Denmark, and on the other hand, as a part of a Canadian-led NATO battle group, around 340 Spanish troops are based in Latvia.
Regarding the earlier mentioned NATO Air Policing mission, the Torrejon Air Base in Spain is home to a Combined Air Operations Centre, which forms part of the mission and is ready to respond to any violations of the area as it is responsible for airspace south of the Alps.
Among the 30 members of NATO, only three states are under the possession of "Nuclear weapons," i.e. United Kingdoms, United States and France, while Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey are hosting US nuclear weapons as part of NATO's nuclear sharing policy as of 2009.
Talking about these nuclear nations, a readiness to send troops to Romania under NATO command was expressed by France while this year, the country also leads NATO's high-readiness land brigade, which has been taken over from a Turkish unit and in the upcoming year it shall hand over control to a German brigade. Not just this, the French nation also contributes some military personnel to the NATO battle group in Estonia.
The US, UK & Germany
Earlier this year, the U.S. clearly stated that it is considering increasing its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance while As many as 8,500 US troops were put on heightened alert a few days back for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe the state.
It should be noted that a vaguely 1,000 strong NATO battlegroup based in Poland is headed by the U.S., which also includes troops from the U.K., Croatia and Romania.
On the other side, heading up the NATO battle group of around 1,000 military personnel in the country, Britain has 900 troops in Estonia, and more than 100 British troops are providing training in Ukraine and have notably trained around 22,000 Ukrainian military personnel since 2015.
As per official reports released earlier, some 2,000 anti-tank weapons are airlifted to Ukraine by the U.K. and 30 specialists to train the Ukrainian armed forces on the new equipment.
Britain has also deployed a Light Cavalry Squadron of around 150 servicemen and women to Poland as part of a US-Led battle group.
Another central point regarding Britain stands as at the start of the year, the Royal Navy's HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier took command of the maritime arm of NATO's high-readiness force. In a few offers to NATO, Boris Johnson is now looking forward to doubling the U.K. troops deployed and sending military specialists, warships and fast jets.
Germany, on a note, doesn't much differ from the above two giants with leading a battle group of around 1,000 NATO troops in Lithuania. Although 600 of those troops are German military personnel, others come from Norway, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.
Along with this, Germany shelters the headquarters of Allied Air Command, which oversees the NATO Air Policing mission.
However, in an ironic situation, Germany refused to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported to Kyiv and Estonia was restricted from providing military support to Ukraine. This was the first case amid tension where the German government had declined the export of lethal weapons directly to Ukraine, unlike other allies.
This "unusual step" was explained by stating that weapons deliveries are seen as contributing to further escalation in the German political discourse, unlike other nations where such acts are clearly seen as a deterrence measure, as said by one of the resident fellows at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
From Other Allies
To support NATO's air-policing activities, the Netherlands is sending two F-35 fighter aircraft to Bulgaria from April and keeping land-based units and a ship on standby for NATO's Response Force. Of the German-led NATO battle group in Lithuania, the Netherlands contributes around 270 of its troops.
In the 1,000 troop race, Canada has led the same strength of NATO military personnel in Latvia. As a part of the unit, the country has over 500 military personnel stationed there, which is also made up of troops from Slovakia, Poland and Italy, while smaller numbers come from Iceland, Albania, Montenegro and the Czech Republic.
US As A Backbone To Crimea
In the past year, the United States had committed more than $650 million of security assistance to Ukraine while much further than $2.7 billion in total since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Just a few days back, in the latest American shipment of military assistance, 300 Javelin missiles were included in the package, which weighed around 80 tons.
Russia Shows Naval Dominance
Amid such sensitive scenarios, which doesn't really seem to make a difference for Moscow, the state is now gearing up for joint drills and has commenced arriving in ex-Soviet Belarus while tanks and rocket systems, armoured vehicles, and other military equipment are on the move as suggested by the images released online.
There has been an evident enhanced control of Russia over the seas surrounding eastern Ukraine and Crimea, specifically the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. Now for both Ukrainian naval action and commercial ships, several barriers have been offered by this control and growth of the Russian fleet.
The Black Sea shall witness its first true hot contact in a century as the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian navy shall almost probably blockade the region if the crisis grows into a full-fledged war which is in turn of a higher possibility and if Ukrainian Naval forces intend to counter Russia's presence.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet (RBSF) has significantly increased since 2014. Many sources claim that currently, 7 submarines and 49 ships are present in the arsenal of the RBSF. On the other hand, the Ukrainian naval force lacks behind with just 15 ships, of which one is a frigate and the others are small combatants and landing ships. With no anti-ship missiles, Kyiv's sole frigate is outfitted with limited armaments, while as a result of a lack of significant naval aviation capability, even the country's anti-submarine warfare capabilities suffer.
NATO Would Go In Vain Here
To manage the situation in the seas, NATO would face a severe hurdle if it decided to intervene. The maximum tonnage of ships is limited to 40.000 tons by the Montreux Convention, which governs the transit regime through the Straits, which means that it is equal to just 3-4 destroyers and 1-2 frigates.
The Russian Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) zone in the Black Sea stands a rare chance to penetrate the surface assets as they are empowered by the Bastion missile batteries on Russia's Black Sea shore while the nation has also acquired an improved Kilo-class submarine underwater.
So, in a nutshell, to intervene and gain a win-win situation, NATO will need submarines to penetrate this zone prohibited by the Montreux Convention. Keeping a note of that, the only submarine force in NATO that exists in the Black Sea is Turkey which would also be reluctant to engage in an underwater battle with Russia in the meantime.
So even if NATO changes its stance from not intervening in the Black Sea, it would be a no-go zone for the NATO assets.