By Bettina Renz
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent developments in East Ukraine prompted much speculation in the West about Russia’s ‘new military prowess’. Many analysts and decision makers, including in NATO, concluded that modernisation efforts over the past few years had transformed the Russian military into a force that now posed a real threat to European and transatlantic security. Serious discussions are already underway about what this might mean for Europe’s and NATO’s future defence capabilities and requirements. There seems to be much agreement that Russia’s new-found military strength needs to be met with more military spending in the West. Sweden has announced an increase in its defence budget in response to the Ukraine crisis. This will include the expansion of its fighter jet fleet from 60 to 70 aircraft as well as the procurement of two new submarines. A UK Parliamentary Defence Committee report concluded that events in Crimea and Ukraine were a ‘game changer for UK defence policy [that] provoked a fundamental re-assessment of both the prioritisation of threats in the National Security Strategy and military capabilities required by the UK’. Is this a realistic assessment? What can the conflict in Ukraine really tell us about Russian conventional warfighting capabilities?