Preparing for the Final War—Bringing Our Worst Fears To Life

Preparing for the Worst: Are Russian and NATO Military Exercises Making War in Europe more Likely?


Ian Kearns

By Ian Kearns

Director, ELN

Łukasz Kulesa

By Łukasz Kulesa

Research Director, ELN

Thomas Frear

By Thomas Frear

Research Fellow, ELN

Over the last 18 months, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and the West has deteriorated considerably. One aspect of the confrontation, as previously documented by the ELN, has been a game of Russian-instigated dangerous brinkmanship which has resulted in many serious close military encounters between the forces of Russia and NATO and its partners over the last 15 months.  Another aspect, however has been the increased scope and size of the military exercises conducted by both Russia and by NATO and its partners in the Euro-Atlantic area since the Ukraine crisis began.
To assist the public and wider policy community in understanding the realities of this new and dangerous security environment in Europe, the ELN has prepared a short policy brief and two interactive maps presenting in detail the anatomy of two recent, large scale military exercises.
The two exercises profiled are:
  • A Russian ‘snap exercise’ conducted in March 2015, which brought together 80,000 military personnel.
  • The NATO ‘Allied Shield’ exercise conducted in June 2015, which brought under one framework four distinct exercises taking place along the Eastern flank of the Alliance, totalling 15,000 personnel from 19 Members states and three partner states.


Both exercises show that each side is training with the other side’s capabilities and most likely war plans in mind. Whilst spokespeople may maintain that these operations are targeted against hypothetical opponents, the nature and scale of them indicate otherwise: Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia. 
We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war or that a military conflict between the two is inevitable, but that the changed profile of exercises is a fact and it does play a role in sustaining the current climate of tensions in Europe. These tensions are further aggravated and elevated into a sense of unpredictability when the exercises are not pre-notified or publicly announced beforehand, as is apparently the case with a number of Russian exercises.
In our view, the implementation of the following four recommendations could help to defuse or at least minimize the tensions connected with the increased frequency and scale of the military exercises now taking place:
  • It is vitally important to increase NATO – Russia communication with regards to the schedule of exercises;
  • Both sides should utilize OSCE channels as much as possible, along with the existing catalogue of Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs) included i.a. in the Vienna Document  to increase military predictability;
  • The politicians on both sides should examine the benefits and dangers of intensified exercising in the border areas. If Russia or NATO decides at some point that they want to reduce tensions, showing restraint in terms of size or scenarios used in exercises might be a good place to start;
  • Conceptual work on a new treaty introducing reciprocal territorial limitations on deployment of specific categories of weapons, backed by robust inspections, should commence as soon as possible.


MAJOR CLEAN-UP—Pak. Intelligence Identifies 1000 Criminals Within Police Force

Three intelligence agencies help Sindh police find 1000 ‘criminal policemen’

pakistan today

Pakistani police officers patrol the streets of Karachi

KARACHI: In an ongoing process, the Sindh police with the help of the country’s three intelligence agencies have identified some 1,000 policemen, including some senior officers, allegedly involved in criminal acts, according to local media authorities.

An official privy to the process initiated months ago said that it was aimed at identifying each and every policeman involved in “undesirable acts while serving in the police department”.

He explained that the conduct of every policeman was being reviewed to ascertain whether he was involved or associated with any criminal activity, reportedly.

Their past and present affiliations were also being taken into account, the official added.

Blast and Aftermath of Tianjin—Death Toll Stands At 44


At Least 44 Dead After Explosions Rock Chinese City of Tianjin

Two explosions rocked the northern Chinese city of Tianjin late Wednesday, local time, killing dozens of people, according to authorities.

The first blast happened at 11:30 p.m., followed by a second explosion just 30 seconds later, according to a statement from the Tianjin Fire Department.

At least 44 people were killed, including 12 firefighters, with more than 500 others taken to nearby hospitals, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

First responders had been at the scene for nearly 30 minutes before the first explosion to fight a fire at the Ruihai Logistics warehouse at the Tianjin Container Port, the fire department said. Ruihai reportedly handles the transport of hazardous goods.

Multiple videos shared on social media show a mushroom cloud erupting into the sky with one of the quakes accompanying the blast.

Photos also shared on social media show shattered windows, cars destroyed by debris and some people covered in debris.

Other photos appear to show injured people, however, it is unclear how many injuries there are from the blast.

A hospital told People’s Daily, China they have already received 300 to 400 patients with injuries.

The first blast registered at a 2.3 magnitude quake and the second was larger at a 2.9 magnitude — the equivalent of 21 tons of TNT — according to the China Earthquake Network Centre.

More than 100 fire trucks are at the scene where the fire is currently contained, the fire department said. Two firefighters are missing and four are injured, however, that number is expected to climb, according to the department.

Numerous high-rise buildings are out of power and some have reported chemical gas leaks as a result of the blast, CCTV America reported.

Tianjin is China’s fifth biggest city, one of four municipalities run directly by China’s central government. More than 15 million people live in Tianjin Municipality. Binhai, where the explosion happened, is home to more than half of the world’s Fortune 500 companies. Tianjin Port, the fourth biggest facility in the world in terms of goods passing through, is the maritime gateway to Beijing.

ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.