Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Not an obvious addition to a library of academic literature, this book has made quite a splash in strategic studies and policy analysis. The author is a four-star British general who held the position of Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and retired in March 2014, just as Crimea was annexed by Russia and the hostilities in Eastern Ukraine started to flare up. This massive geopolitical crisis, which caught NATO unprepared and unable to produce anything resembling a coherent response, prompted him to write this cross between a novel and a war-gaming scenario. The blunder of misreading Russia’s intentions and underestimating its power-projection capabilities causes, in an entirely natural way, an error in portraying this newly-revisionist power as a modern military machine led by a ruthless megalomaniac. What distinguishes this narrative from the alarmist ‘Russians-are-coming’ pamphlets is the sharp insight into the mechanisms of decision-making in the key Western quarters. He is disgusted with the petty intrigues of European politicians (in that attitude, warriors are not that different from peaceniks) and professionally worried about the sustained curtailing of crucial military capabilities. He cherishes no illusions about convincing political elites in the UK or Germany in the urgency of investing in the armed forces, but he knows how sensitive they are to the oscillations in public opinion – and tries to contribute to the pro-deterrence shift, which is already happening. NATO appears to be on track of building up collective defense in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (which are in the focus of Shirreff’s ‘fact-based prediction’, p 14), so in a year he will revel to be proven wrong.