A parliamentary group has issued a damning report that experts say suggests the British Armed Forces would likely ‘exhaust their chief capabilities after the first couple of months of engagement.’
That said, Rishi Sunak’s government has insisted that any form of mandatory military service is currently off the table – and in any case, were conflict to break out, Britain wouldn’t be facing Russia alone.
Let’s unpack what that could look like.
What does Nato mean, and what does it do?
Nato, or the ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organization’, is an alliance of different governments around the world, including the United Kingdom.
It was established in the aftermath of the Second World War to safeguard the collective security of what will soon be 32 member states.
This was highlighted on Wednesday, when three Nato planes were scrambled after Russian missiles appeared to be overshooting Ukraine and heading towards Poland.
That means that if any one member of Nato is attacked by a foreign power – for instance, if the UK were to be attacked by Russia – the other members would be obliged under the terms of the alliance to respond militarily to that threat.
Countries that are part of the alliance also undertake to spend at least two percent of their GDP on defence. While some member states fall behind others in this respect, their combined spending on military resources nevertheless accounts for more than half of the annual spend in this area across the world.
Which countries are Nato members in 2024?
At the time of writing, the full list of 31 Nato members looks like this:
- The Netherlands
- North Macedonia
- United Kingdom
- United States
It is expected that Sweden will soon also formally enter the alliance, with its application for acceptance having been accepted in June 2022 — that would make 32.
Additionally, Nato formally recognises Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Georgia, and Ukraine as aspiring members.
Other countries act as official partners to the alliance, including Colombia, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand and Australia.
How likely is war between Russia and Nato in 2024?
Since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Vladimir Putin has repeatedly portrayed his ‘special military operation’ as a direct consequence of Nato expansionism, and even threatened nuclear retaliation against the West for its ongoing support of Ukraine.
More recently, the Russian economy has been placed on a war footing for the next three years, with 30% of state expenditure (or 10% of the country’s GDP) now being pumped directly into the military, while troops have also been moved toward the northwestern border with Finland, Latvia and Estonia – all Nato member states.
In December, Joe Biden warned there was a serious risk that Russia would attack a Nato country even if it was successful in Ukraine.
But it’s important to remember the US president’s comments come as he pleads with Republicans to stop blocking his proposed emergency funding for Ukraine as part of an ongoing stand-off on provisions for US border security.
The truth of the matter is that nobody really knows, and so the likelihood of an all-out war between Nato and Russia for the time being simply depends on who you ask.
One thing, however, is clear: it’s a very long time since the chances seemed this high.
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