The Russians appear to be aware of the fact that most European NATO members are paper tigers militarily. While the European NATO members have about two million troops, compared to 900,000 for Russia, since the 1980s NATO nations have done little combined planning or training for large scale joint operations. If Russia, for example, grabbed the three Baltic States the NATO alliance would have a very difficult time mustering a credible conventional force to eject, much less stop, the Russians. The three nuclear powers in NATO (the U.S., Britain and France) could threaten to use their nukes, but that’s also a hollow threat as Russia has nearly as many nukes as the United States and if the use of nukes escalated the losses to everyone would be catastrophic and everyone knows it.
The problem is that the European NATO members never spent as heavily on their armed forces as did the United States and Russia, especially after 1991. Britain and France are still heavy spenders, but not enough to make up for what the rest of European NATO members are not doing.
The West Germany army was big, tough — and not very mobile. Yes, their armor forces could race around the home country, but they didn’t have the ability to deploy anywhere else. Given Germany’s history, I don’t think anyone really minded that the BDR’s army lacked strategic reach. The reunified Germany army isn’t much different, except for the big part. Berlin has cut to the bone.
France and Britain both have some strategic reach, but not much left in the cupboard. We have the logistics, the men, and the material — but our top leadership has proven… questionable of late. And large-scale, multinational NATO exercises — the kind of thing which allows military alliances to actually function militarily — are a relic of the past.
NATO as we’ve known it might be functionally over.