It’s time for NATO to Look North

Julianne Smith and Rachel Rizzo in Defense One:

It also requires a change in strategy and acquisition policy for individual NATO allies, particularly those bordering the North Atlantic. Unfortunately, many NATO allies have allowed their maritime capabilities in the region to wane over the last two decades. Earlier this year, five senior retired members of the British Royal Air Force warned that the UK’s lack of planes to hunt Russian subs in the North Atlantic has left their Trident nuclear deterrent vulnerable to Russian spying. NATO’s Atlantic facing members also possess far fewer capabilities than they did 20 years ago. In 1995, they had around 100 frigates, but today that number hovers at about 50. The United States, for example, has shifted most of it 52 attack submarines to the contested Asia Pacific region.

NATO’s current maritime strategy in the North Atlantic reflects the perceived threat from the Yeltsin era Russia. Now we need to consider what another two decades with Putin could bring.

The thing about maritime capabilities is that it takes so long to build them. You must project the navy that you expect to need 20 years from now. Russia just published a new naval doctrine but NATO’s acquisition strategy should match another generation or two down the line.

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