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US admiral: The Russian military is trying to 'cripple' NATO

Admiral Mark FergusonUS NavyAdmiral Mark E. Ferguson III, Naval Forces Europe

A US admiral has warned that NATO is having difficulty adapting and responding to evolving Russian military threats.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, US Admiral Mark Ferguson, who is in charge of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, said that Russia is developing military capabilities and hybrid method of war are designed to “cripple” the functional abilities of the NATO alliance, according to a transcript from US Naval Institute news.

Russia’s focus on hybrid and asymmetrical warfare, including its development of cyber and information warfare capabilities, is “designed to cripple the decision-making cycle of the alliance,” Ferguson. “Their capabilities have focused on the creation of ambiguity.”

As an example of Russia’s use of hybrid warfare, Ferguson pointed to how Moscow has used government-sanctioned media and propaganda to create tension throughout Europe.

“Russia exploits ethnic and religious divisions, makes use of an aggressive information campaign, and extensively uses misinformation and deception to delegitimize the forces under attack while confusing the attribution of their actions,” Ferguson said.

The overall goal of this disunion is to undermine NATO’s structural integrity and decision-making capabilities. At the same time, Russia is “centralizing their national and military decision-making.”

“We are seeing more frequent snap exercises focused on rapid mobilization and movement directed by central headquarters, to include their naval forces, where we have seen large numbers of ships get underway with little or no notice,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson’s warnings over NATO’s preparedness in countering Russia echoes those of Polish general StanisÅ‚aw Koziej, the head of the president’s National Security Bureau.

Koziej told Newsweek in May that he was concerned over the Russian media’s constant villification of Poland. He feared that it could later be used by Moscow to justify small-scale asymmetric attacks against Poland that would potentially fall outside the scope of NATO’s mutual defence agreements.

This risk of covert aggression, with a focus on propaganda, subversion, and sabotage, is steadily growing within Poland, Koziej warned.

“We cannot be that certain in case of threats under the threshold of war — hidden aggression, diversion, which cannot be disregarded since Russian annexation of Crimea,” the general told Newsweek.

In May, NATO and the EU agreed to work together more closely in developing contingency and action plans against Russian hybrid warfare that the alliance systems — a threat that the alliance’s leaders felt they were under-prepared to counter.

In particular, NATO said it was closely studying how to respond to potential Russian aggressions against member countries with large Russian populations, such as the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia.

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