The War in Ukraine Holds Two Lessons: Russia Isn’t an Imminent Threat, and Europe Must Rearm Regardless

Two years into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, warnings of war between Russia and the west have reached fever pitch in Europe and Britain. The explicit intention of these warnings is to create public support for massive spending on rearmament, on the old principle of “scare the hell out of them”.

The goal of European rearmament is laudable; the arguments being used to bring it about are not. As long as the war in Ukraine continues, there is a real risk that Nato and Russia will stumble into war as the result of some unintended clash. But the chances that this will come about as the result of a premeditated Russian invasion of a Nato country are minimal.

Russia simply doesn’t pose a serious threat of conventional attack on the EU and Nato. Vladimir Putin has often said – most recently in his interview with Tucker Carlson – that Russia has no intention of, and no interest in, an attack on Nato unless Nato attacks Russia. For a whole set of objective reasons, on this at least we can believe him.

For one, Russia has revealed itself to be a much weaker military power than was thought – and than Putin assumed – before the invasion. Since its defeats in 2022, the Russian army in Ukraine has recovered, and the balance of forces is swinging in its favour; all the same, the only Russian successes over the past year have been the capture of two small towns in the Donbas, and these advances have taken months and cost the Russians tens of thousands of casualties. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians have inflicted severe damage on the Russian Black Sea fleet.