Nato 'unprepared' to repel Russian attack, MPs warn

UK defence watchdog says major overhaul is required to defend against cyber-warfare and 'irregular militias'

A column of Russian T-90 tanks rolls through Red Square
Russian T-90 tanks roll through Red Square during a parade in Moscow
(Image credit: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain and Nato are "woefully prepared" to deal with the threats posed to member states by Russia, should relations with Vladimir Putin deteriorate any further, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.

The crisis in Ukraine has raised the spectre of a new era of hostility between East and West, but according to the committee, Nato's forces are "seriously deficient" in key areas, the alliance's ability to predict attack is lacking and command and control structures need to be overhauled.

While the risk of a conventional conflict remains low, the Commons defence committee warned that cyber-attacks or assaults by "irregular militias" such as separatists remain possible, the BBC reports.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The committee recommended:

  • Improvements to the existing Nato rapid reaction force.
  • The positioning of equipment in the Baltic States.
  • A continuous presence of Nato troops in the Baltic.
  • A return to "large-scale military exercises".
  • A commitment to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence.
  • A full review of responses to cyber attacks.

Nato has said that it will review the committee's findings.

Conservative MP Rory Stewart, the new head of the committee, noted that while Nato has not carried out any mass training exercises since the end of the Cold War, Russia's military had practised naval blockades, combined submarine operations and simulated tactical nuclear strikes. "We haven't done any exercises like that since about 1988-1989," Stewart said.

The recommendations have been made at a time of "exceptionally fraught and volatile relations between Russia and the west," The Guardian says. They come against a backdrop of renewed conflict in Ukraine and just weeks before a biennial Nato summit which will be hosted by David Cameron in Wales.

A government spokesman told The Times that in the run-up to the Nato summit, the UK was "negotiating across the alliance to ensure Nato can continue to be at the forefront of building stability in a unpredictable world".

Nato's spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, admitted she had not read the full report, but said: "Nato has already taken measures to reinforce collective defence, especially for our eastern allies, with more planes in the air, more ships at sea, and more exercises on the ground. All 28 allies are contributing, and the United Kingdom is playing an important role in policing Baltic airspace and planned exercises in Poland".

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.