ABCD 2022 Key Takeaways: Unwavering Support to Ukraine, Steadfast Western Unity, Ambitious Steps in Strengthening the Alliance, and Quality over Quantity on the Battlefield
The Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABCD) 2022 focused on lessons from the war in Ukraine for the Baltic Sea Region. The conference discussed the many consequences President Putin’s full-scale attack on Ukraine has had and identified some key lessons, implications and principles that should lead our words and deeds in the times ahead.
The conference featured a long list of speakers, including Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Thomas Hitschler, Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Defence of Germany, Angus Lapsley CMG, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning, Alice Guitton, Director General for International Relations and Strategy of the Ministry for the Armed Forces of France, Rachel Ellehuus, Secretary of Defense Representative in Europe and Defense Advisor for the U.S. Mission to NATO, Lieutenant General Michael Claesson, Chief Joint Operations of the Swedish Armed Forces, Major General Stanisław Czosnek, Land Component Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, and Brigadier General Hennadii Shapovalov, Head of General Directorate of Military Cooperation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The takeaways from the panels that follow are not intended to be an exhaustive record of the event, and the views recorded here were not necessarily shared by all participants.
Lessons for the Baltic Sea Region from the War in Ukraine
Russia has brought peace and stability in Europe to an end with its brutal war against Ukraine, and continues to be a threat to Euro-Atlantic security. The result of this war will determine the future of European and global security architecture, which is why we must do everything in our power to support Ukraine as long as needed and ensure its victory. While a military conflict between Russia and NATO would be different, observations from Ukraine provide valuable insights that must guide our further actions. Western unity is the key component of confronting Russia and safeguarding the security of the Euro-Atlantic area. NATO needs to take bold steps towards improved posture, plans, command structure, capabilities and nuclear deterrence. The importance of significant and sustained defence investments, stronger regional ties, interoperability, a whole-of-government approach to defence, effective mobilisation systems, stocks, and close cooperation with the defence industry and private sector must not be underestimated. Aggression is best prevented by being prepared.
Security and Defence Policy Implications
Russian aggression against Ukraine is threatening the rules-based international order and must be countered not only for the sake of Ukraine but also to safeguard the rest of the world against any attempts to achieve imperialistic goals by the use of force. We are living in turbulent times, heading towards an altered security architecture. While it remains to be seen whether Russia will emerge from the war as a stronger or weaker power, there is little reason to believe it will become less of a threat to our security. The challenges ahead will include an intensified nuclear rhetoric, deeper ties between Russia and China, meaningfully engaging the Global South, increasing resilience, as well as retaining Western unity and strategic endurance. The crisis has rebooted Western resolve and defence development, but there is a lot of work ahead in turning plans and decisions into realities on the ground, and current shortcomings into strengths. While Finland and Sweden joining NATO will bring many advantages, the role of US commitment and presence in Europe remains crucial. The West must relearn how to manage escalation and retake the initiative.
Military Lessons from Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Seven months on the battlefield in Ukraine have demonstrated that while mass size provides an advantage, a smart, precise, innovative and versatile military is able to effectively counter and strike back at a larger force. Well-established and well-integrated territorial defence can make a significant difference. Ukraine has benefitted from its ability to adapt swiftly on the go as well as dominating the information environment. Investments in infrastructure and capabilities are vital, but they do not defend on their own: trained and capable troops must go hand in hand with such developments. A resilient population and a whole-of-government approach to defence are further essential contributors to success.
While looking back has proved highly beneficial in terms of valuable lessons, what matters most is the steps ahead. NATO Allies have an ambitious to-do list on their table. Credible deterrence is built with unambiguous actions and unwavering united resolve. Russia is convinced by forward defence only when it knows that the necessary NATO forces will be here, exercises have taken place, and equipment is prepositioned. The key to success lies in being prepared.