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Mid-Winter Meeting´s Symposium focused on Russia´s threat and reserves increasing role in contemporary wars

Captain Rachel Ingram, STRATCOM Committee 03.02.2024
The symposium featured Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Laforest, keynote speaker, along with presentations by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia 2006-2016, and Keir Giles, director of Conflict Studies Research Centre in the United Kingdom.

Laforest gave an introductory course on deterrence and defense of the Euro Atlantic Area. An assistant chief of staff at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Laforest reminded attendees that NATO is a defensive alliance of 31 nations, and that alliance depends on national plans. Those national defense plans rely on, “Forces who are available and in the readiness state we need, the equipment we need, and the ability to operate in the format we need.” Those required formats span land, air, sea, and the full scope of multi domain operations.

Ilves, who is a distinguished visiting fellow of multiple educational institutions in the United States, opened his presentation with a philosophical quote about the owl of Minerva. He explained this quote means that humans only reach an understanding of a historical era as it comes to an end. “We are approaching the end of an era,” Ilves said, referring to the post-Cold War era after its 35-year reign.
During the Cold War, Ilves posited, Allied nations were on high alert against peer threats, but upon the conclusion of that conflict, the posture of the Alliance softened. “Communism was dead, and with it, our vigilance,” he said. 

As dusk falls on the post-Cold War era, a new era, one which has yet to be named, is on the horizon. “The question we all face now is, what are all going to do about it?” Ilves stated. “There are fundamental security issues NATO will have to grapple with in the coming years.” Ilves expressed his concern about Europe´s readiness to encounter possible aggression or any other hostile attacks as well as political developments in United States after forthcoming presidential elections. The owl of Minerva, Ilves said, has taken flight. It is time to take notice.

Subsequently, Giles offered a comprehensive look at what he believes are Moscow’s intentions for the rest of the world.
“There are lessons for other countries in what has happened in Ukraine,” Giles said, underscoring that it’s possible to destabilize a nation in only a matter of days.
Giles discussed Russia’s use of nuclear intimidation, influence and information campaigns to assert dominance in Europe. He has paid close attention to emerging patterns of aggression Russia has utilized over the long term.

The conclusion of the symposium included an overview of reserve forces Ukraine has recruited to encounter Russia´s aggression presented by Estonian reserve officer and filmmaker Captain Ilmar Raag. The presentation was complimented by a 6-minute video of the trench warfare occurring there with support of volunteers of different nationalities.

A common thread throughout the symposium was the necessity of ready reserve forces in the future. “Plans are underpinned by the notion that we will have those troops at times of need,” Laforest said in his presentation. Certainly, CIOR is one way to bolster such forces in preparation of instability on the horizon. CIOR President Lieutenant Colonel Toomas Luman applauded the organization for leading the way in influencing decision makers and policies in the interest of preparedness and resilience.
 

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