Why Is There a Surge in Conversations About War?

Intractable combat in Ukraine and the Middle East coupled with the uncertainty of US politics has sparked fear among European defence leaders. Should we all be worried? Here’s the full story. 

Boiling Point

It will not have escaped your notice that everyone has been talking about war in the past few days. Whether it’s the head of the British Army, British Army Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, Admiral Rob Bauer, who heads NATO’s military committee, or the UK government’s Defense secretary, Grant Shapps, everyone seems to be discussing the spectre of war looming over Europe.

European defence ministers and military strategists are on edge amidst escalating conflicts within and beyond their borders. The ongoing war in Ukraine and the confluence of several different volatile situations in the Middle East have cast a shadow of apprehension across the whole continent.

The warnings are coming from everywhere and all at once. Notable figures within the military and political spheres have voiced their apprehensions. Adm Rob Bauer, chair of NATO’s military committee, underscored the need for preparedness, stating, “It’s not a given that we are in peace.”

Similarly, British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps jumped on the sabre-rattling bandwagon when, in a recent speech, he said that the country was moving from a “post-war to a pre-war world.” He argued vociferously that it was time for countries to begin rearming to protect Europe from “Putin’s fury.” 

Don’t Mention the War

Even leaders from European countries who are more pacifist, considering their military history, have sounded the alarm. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius highlighted the rapidly evolving military landscape, suggesting a potential window of vulnerability for Europe in the coming years.

While acknowledging that a direct Russian attack seems unlikely, Pistorius cautioned Europe against complacency, stating that the continent was “dealing with a military threat situation … that has not existed for 30 years”.

Echoing sentiments from across Europe, Norway, and Sweden have also issued warnings regarding the looming spectre of conflict, adding weight to the growing chorus of concern among European nations.

Sweden, along with Finland, also joined NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, adding to the overall feeling of a continent under siege. 

Fearmongering or Legitimate Concerns? 

While many have speculated that military leaders are simply fearmongering to justify ever-increasing military spending, experts have responded by pointing to the palpable strain caused by the prolonged conflict in Ukraine.

Despite substantial Western military aid, including advanced weaponry and armoured vehicles, the Russian frontlines remain resilient, raising doubts amongst their Western allies about the efficacy of Ukraine’s current strategy. 

The Trump Card

One of the leading causes of concern amongst European leaders is the looming threat posed by Donald Trump’s potential return to the presidency. Lingering doubts about Trump’s stance on NATO are fuelling apprehensions about the future of transatlantic relations.

Trump, a wannabe dictator himself, is also viewed as having a fondness for authoritarian leaders, with a particularly close relationship with Putin, which also adds to the unease felt across the continent. 

Calls for greater European autonomy in defence have surfaced, with proposals for a European pillar of defence gaining traction. In an interview with Politico on Thursday, Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative European People’s Party in the European Parliament, advocated for the EU to assume the responsibility of defending the continent, suggesting the establishment of “a European pillar of defence.”

This proposed initiative would encompass a nuclear umbrella, with France being the sole nuclear-armed state within the EU. While there is discussion among some EU politicians regarding the necessity of appointing an EU defence commissioner, the likelihood of this manoeuvre superseding NATO remains slim.

NATO has substantial military capabilities, with both the UK and the US also being nuclear-armed powers, and many within the alliance hope they can wait out a Trump presidency in 2024, as they did in 2016.

Reality or Anxiety? 

While concerns about the US support, or lack thereof, are palpable, the assessment of Russia’s capacity for a broader conflict remains tempered. Despite Russia’s aggressive sabre rattling, serious doubts persist regarding Russia’s ability to mount a significant offensive against NATO member states.

A common refrain amongst Ukrainian soldiers recently has been, “Russia used to be thought of as the second-best army in the world. Now we know it’s the second best army in Ukraine.”

While Europe still has to grapple with the many challenges facing it in an era of unparalleled political uncertainty, the threat posed by Russia, though severe, is not as dangerous as it once was. 

The post Why Is There a Surge in Conversations About War? first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / FixPlay.

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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