NATO urges civilians in the West to prepare for all-out war with Russia within 20 years

18 January 2024, 23:55

NATO countries face an all-our war with Russia within the next 20 years
NATO countries face an all-our war with Russia within the next 20 years. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

Residents of Western countries should prepare for an all-out war with Russia within the next 20 years, a top NATO official has warned.

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Admiral Rob Bauer said that although NATO and member governments are readying themselves for conflict with Vladimir Putin's regime, civilians must realise that they also have a role to play.

He told reporters that civilians would have to be mobilised in large numbers if war broke out, and governments would have to prepare for how to manage that process.

Adml Bauer, the chairman of NATO's military committee, said: "We have to realise it’s not a given that we are in peace. And that’s why we [Nato forces] are preparing for a conflict with Russia.

"But the discussion is much wider. It is also the industrial base and also the people that have to understand they play a role."

Read more: 'European elites have to pitch in': Steve Bannon says NATO has become 'a US protectorate, not an alliance'

Read more: Britain to increase Ukraine funding to £2.5bn, Rishi Sunak announces, as PM visits Kyiv

NATO troops are meeting for a massive training exercise next week
NATO troops are meeting for a massive training exercise next week. Picture: Getty

Sweden, a non-NATO country that is bidding to join the alliance this year, has warned its people that they could soon be taking up arms.

The country's defence minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin told citizens: "The world is facing a security outlook with greater risks than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

"Are you a private individual? Have you considered whether you have time to join a voluntary defence organisation? If not: get moving!"

Mr Bohlin's words have sparked a rush to join volunteer organisations, and are said to have increased sales of torches and battery-powered radios.

Ukraine has been at war with Russia for nearly two years
Ukraine has been at war with Russia for nearly two years. Picture: Getty

Adml Bauer, of the Royal Netherlands Navy, praised this initiative, saying: "It starts there. The realisation that not everything is plannable and not everything is going to be hunky dory in the next 20 years."

Some 90,000 NATO troops prepare to take part in mass exercises next week - the largest the alliance has held since the Cold War.

The UK has committed 20,000 soldiers, tanks, artillery and fighter jets to the Steadfast Defender 2024 drills, which are intended to prepare for a war against Russia.

It comes against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, which began nearly two years ago. Many are concerned that Russia could invade other eastern European countries that are NATO member states, which would draw the alliance into a war with Moscow.

Rob Bauer
Rob Bauer. Picture: Getty

Announcing the extent of the UK's participation in Steadfast Defender, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said that NATO countries "stand at a crossroads."

He added: "Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated. Battle lines are being redrawn.

"The tanks are literally on Ukraine’s lawn. And the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core."

Some onlookers fear that the Ukrainian war effort is depleting Western armament reserves, while Russia has devoted 40% of its budget to the military.

Adml Bauer added that NATO countries "need to be readier across the whole spectrum."

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Alamy

He told reporters: "You have to have a system in place to find more people if it comes to war, whether it does or not. Then you talk mobilisation, reservists or conscription.

"You need to be able to fall back on an industrial base that is able to produce weapons and ammunition fast enough to be able to continue a conflict if you are in it."

While support for Ukraine's cause is still strong, backing for military aid is weakening in Western governments. The crisis in the Middle East, including in Gaza and the Red Sea, has also turned global attention away from the battle against Putin.

The EU and Joe Biden have both struggled to reach agreements on their respective aid packages for Kyiv recently, although the UK increased its own offering this year to £2.5 billion.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Thursday that Ukraine's war with Russia was the "struggle of our generation", and vowed that Kyiv would continue to have Britain's support.

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He rejected calls for Ukraine to negotiate a peace settlement with Russia, likening the idea to the appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s.

Lord Cameron added: "And what we know from that is, if you appease aggression you get more of it."

And concerns have been raised for the future of NATO itself, depending on the results of November's US presidential election.

Donald Trump has been notoriously lukewarm on the merits of the alliance, and has called for other countries to pay more.

Steve Bannon, Mr Trump's former adviser, told LBC this week that NATO was a "protectorate, not an alliance", and that it had become "an American security guarantee" for Europe.

NATO member states are meant to put 2% of their GDP into their annual military budgets. But just seven of 30 NATO member states contributed that much in 2022, the latest figures available - despite Russia invading Ukraine, a NATO neighbour in February that year.

The seven who contributed 2% or more were the US, UK, Greece, Poland and the three Baltic states. Eight members met the required military spending rate the year before.

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