Front-line NATO countries will be staring down a 'battle-hardened Russia' able to more easily strike if Ukraine falls, war analyst warns

  • If Ukraine loses to Russia, NATO forces would face an emboldened Russian military, war experts say.

  • Ukraine's defeat may lead Russia to become a greater military risk, potentially driving toward NATO borders.

  • If Ukraine wins though, it could make it more challenging for Russia to threaten the alliance.

If Ukraine loses to Russia, NATO countries could consequently find themselves facing an emboldened, "battle-hardened" Russian army with a clearer path to war, an analyst argues.

Fredrick W. Kagan, the director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in commentary published by the Institute for the Study of War that unless the US resumes sending military aid, Ukraine will be defeated and Russia will become an even greater military threat able to then "drive toward the NATO borders from the Black Sea to central Poland."

In the event that Russia attacked the alliance, NATO would likely have to resolve threats at Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary's southern borders, holding up its forces that are tasked with defending countries in the Baltic region like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Able to overrun a defeated Ukraine, Russia would be threatening parts of the alliance that haven't faced a Russian threat since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In that dire scenario, "NATO troops, inexperienced in fighting modern mechanized war, would be staring down a battle-hardened Russian military, emboldened from its victory in Ukraine," Kagan wrote.

He said that it "is almost impossible to overstate how much the success or failure of Ukraine's current efforts to fight off the Russian attack changes the prospects of a future Russian attack against NATO's northeastern flank," which would be front-line fighting in a war with Russia.

Kagan emphasized that regardless of whether or not Ukraine is a NATO member, empowering it to stand strong against Russia is in the best interests of the US and the broader alliance.

"An independent Ukraine with a strong military and a pro-Western government will make a Russian attack on NATO much more difficult, risky, and costly for Moscow," he wrote.

Currently, Kyiv has been waiting on US aid for months, waiting for a decision on billions of dollars in aid from Congress that could make or break it in the war against Russia.

Ukraine has found short-term solutions. Its dependence on drones, for instance, stems from its struggle to find enough artillery ammunition and other supplies to sustain its ground forces. Ukraine recently used seven drones to take down a Russian radar system worth millions of dollars, but they aren't enough, as Ukraine's leadership has said.

Ukraine has regularly said it needs more weapons and more ammo, such as air defense and artillery.

"It's a lot to preserve ourselves. It's very difficult for us. We are fighting against a large army," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with PBS this week.

"They have an unlimited number of people and a lot of shells. They use thousands of drones against us. Tell me, please, how can you fight against these thousands if you don't have weapons to take them down?" he said, adding that what Ukraine needs, it's partners have.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly said that helping Ukraine fight Russia today keeps NATO from having to fight it later.

Kagan argued in his analysis that a "victorious Russia that succeeds in its aim of destroying Ukraine entirely" will likely "pose a major conventional military threat to NATO in a relatively short period of time."

He added that "it will be much harder to deter future Russian aggression and both more difficult and far more costly to defeat it if deterrence fails."

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