The following series, Radioactive in Riga: The Latvian Nuclear Standoff of 2018, by Iskander Rehman comes from Art of Future Warfare project media partner War On The Rocks.
A Note From the Author: The purpose of this scenario, which stretches over three years, is to gauge potential future developments in NATO-Russia relations. While it is a work of fiction, and thus largely speculative, it is nevertheless grounded in a close study of Russia’s geopolitical mindset, and of its recent strategic behavior. The goal is not to engage in alarmism, but rather to explore plausible pathways to conflict, in the hope that through their examination such grim futures can be forestalled. Scenario development, whether through alternate histories, science fiction, or wargaming, can help us befuddled mortals peer just a little further into the fog of the future. That being said, it is my sincere hope that none of these events come to pass, and more importantly, that readers should find the scenario more thought-provoking (and entertaining) than genuinely troubling. Last but not least, it should provide a useful reminder that despite recent events in Syria, the Russian challenge to European stability is not likely to go away any time s
A Temporary Freezing of the Ukraine Conflict
In the early months of 2016, the situation in the Ukrainian Donbas appeared to have devolved into something of a stalemate. Russian-backed separatists continued to exert control over the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, while Ukrainian forces regrouped and consolidated their presence in frontline cities such as the industrial port of Mariupol. The onset of a particularly harsh winter appeared to coincide with a sizable decrease in cross-border infiltration. In March 2016, General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) gave voice to cautious optimism, noting: There has been a notable reduction in Russian troop presence along the Ukraine-Russia border, and encouraging signals that Russian equipment, resupply, and training is no longer flowing as freely as before. We welcome this development, but remain vigilant over the possibility of renewed attempts to incite violence in Ukraine or elsewhere.
In Western capitals, close observers of Russian politics suggested that the Kremlin might have chosen to temporarily reduce its direct level of activity in Ukraine in response to rising domestic discontent over the steady drumbeat of Russian combat casualties, which reached a crescendo in January when almost 60 Russian troops died of exposure after having been driven from their bunkers. Despite Moscow’s attempts to muzzle coverage of the disaster, a Vice journalist’s footage of the young soldiers’ frozen corpses found its way online, causing widespread discontent in Russia. Others warned that this reprieve in violence was merely the result of a redirection of more forces toward the Syrian theater, and likely to be short-lived, predicting that conflict would resume with the advent of spring.