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Is Europe Sleepwalking Into World War 3? NATO Drills, Soaring Military Spending Raise Alarms

NATO, led by the United States, has launched the “Resolute Defender 2024” military exercise since February. This is the largest military exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War. It has transformed the vast eastern European region from Norway to Romania (the “NATO Eastern Flank”). It has become an imaginary battlefield against Russia, intensifying the contradiction between NATO and Russia, and pushing both sides to the “brink of war.” On February 26, when presiding over the “International Conference to Support Ukraine,” French President Macron stated that he would not rule out the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine to confront Russia. Russia responded that if NATO sends troops to Ukraine, a direct conflict with Russia will be inevitable and may “trigger a conflict involving the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization.” A nuclear war between NATO and Russia is imminent. Both sides threaten each other, and Europe is once again on the verge of danger.

War is stirring in my mind. Currently, the crisis in Ukraine has entered a stalemate. The United States and the West exerted maximum pressure on Russia but failed to achieve the goal of causing its economy to collapse. Instead, the Russian economy showed strong resilience. This frustrated Western countries that were confident of quickly defeating Russia in the first year of the conflict. European and NATO leaders and generals began preparing for a long-term confrontation with Russia, even at the risk of a major war.

In February 2024, General Rob Ball, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, warned: “We live in the most dangerous world in decades.” Anything can happen. People must change their mentality. “We must face the unexpected.” “Things”, the era when everything was planable, predictable, controllable, and focused on efficiency has become a thing of the past. On January 15, 2024, Germany’s “Bild” published a so-called “confidential document” from the German Ministry of Defense predicting the prospects of the Ukraine crisis, which deduced Russia’s “road map and timetable” for its upcoming attack on NATO countries, believing that the Ukrainian crisis starts from a local level. The possibility of the war expanding into a global war and a global war has increased dramatically. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius believes that Europe faces a real threat of war and calls on Europe to prepare for war. The military must step out of its comfort zone and become a force “capable of fighting.”

Russia’s security anxiety continues to increase with the eastward expansion of NATO. The joining of Finland and Sweden has forced Russia to directly face NATO’s military threats along a border of more than 1,300 kilometers. Therefore, responding to NATO’s eastward expansion with force has broad elite consensus and social foundation in Russia, and Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine is not “Putin’s war” as defined by Western discourse. The consensus and will of the Russian elite to respond to the “NATO challenge” is very firm. They even believe that “using nuclear weapons when necessary” is the final and most effective way to respond to NATO. Obviously, Russia is also mentally preparing for a possible escalation of war. A future war between NATO and Russia is already brewing in our minds.

War is approaching in action. The Ukraine crisis has triggered a “turn of the times” in Europe, and this change is currently most obvious in the military field. For Europe, especially Germany, topics that were once unimaginable or even taboo in post-World War II political concepts, such as “increasing military spending,” “strengthening military industry,” and “being able to fight wars,” have become commonplace. The media and parties (such as the Green Party) that once had a tradition of pacifism have now become advocates, promoters, policymakers and propagandists for sending troops, preparing for war, increasing military spending, and providing weapons. First, military expenditures have generally increased. On February 14, before the NATO Defense Ministers’ Meeting, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg publicly stated that “in 2024, the defense spending of the 18 NATO countries will reach the target of 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP). “Among them, Poland’s military expenditure growth ranks among the top among NATO members, exceeding 3% of GDP. If military support funds are included, it exceeds 4%, setting a record in the country’s history. Germany also achieved the goal of defense spending accounting for 2% of GDP in 2023, and actual military spending has more than doubled in the past decade. But German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius believes that this is not enough, and Germany’s military spending should account for 3.5%. Second, military exercises are held frequently. NATO has held several military exercises against Russia in the past few years. The “Resolute Defender 2024” military exercise involves about 90,000 officers and soldiers from all services of the sea, land and air, and is intended to comprehensively test NATO’s multinational military capabilities in mobilization, actual operations, and command coordination. Third, relevant fields have begun to prepare for war. The German Federal Minister of Health recently urged German hospitals and medical personnel to prepare for the war. “The medical community must also prepare for the turning point of the times.” Once the Russo-European war breaks out, Germany will be the center for treating the wounded and sick. Germany is already the country in Europe that has received the largest number of wounded Ukrainians. In the fields of education and scientific research, German universities will be forced under political pressure to abandon the principle of not engaging in military technology research after the end of World War II and join the process of technological armament. Some people in universities worry that the ban policy will inspire militarism in scientific research and make academic and society violent. Fourth, social preparations for war have begun. NATO member states began to mobilize their people to make material and ideological preparations for war, such as stocking up on enough food and drinking water, as well as flashlights and radios, to ensure survival within the first 36 hours of the war. This makes the public realize that they must always be prepared for unexpected crises.

Europe should learn the painful lessons of the war. Historically, Europe has experienced many intra-regional wars when it encountered drastic changes in the times. The two world wars that caused the world suffering also originated from Europe. The Cold War originating from Europe and the United States plunged the world into half a century of military and ideological confrontation. Europe and the United States believe in the theory of deterrence and believe that deterrence can stop wars. NATO’s eastward expansion after the Cold War was to implement strategic deterrence against Russia, but the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis declared the failure of this strategy. Deterrence not only fails to prevent war, it actually brings about it. Currently, the world is once again witnessing Europe and the United States rushing towards war, leading to an increasing risk of large-scale escalation of war. When discussing the real threat of war in Europe and the lessons of history, a European scholar reluctantly quoted Hegel’s famous saying and said that the lesson Europe can learn from history is that it has not learned any lessons. If so, Europe will really be in danger of war.

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