General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, deputy supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe takes part in the NATO
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, deputy supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe © AFP

Nato cannot deter Russia alone and must formulate a “grand strategy” for security in Europe with the EU, the alliance’s highest-ranking operational European officer has warned.

Sir Adrian Bradshaw, a British general and Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Russia would remain a threat for as long as President Vladimir Putin holds power. He said there could be “catastrophic” consequences if the west lost coherence in its response “to a competitor that has his hands on all the levers of power”.

“It’s the responsibility of Nato . . . not only to be the architect and executor of military strategy, but to understand clearly how military strategy is integrated with the other arms of national power and to flag up where action needs to be taken in the non-military domain,” said Gen Bradshaw.

“We need to move in the direction of the ability to formulate in the old-fashioned terms, grand strategy . . . I think it has quite serious implications regarding the relationship between Nato and the EU.”

Gen Bradshaw said Nato was grappling with a spectrum of Russian aggression towards the west — from provocative military manoeuvres on Europe’s borders to subversion, alongside a tide of digital propaganda and efforts to manipulate the US presidential election. Given its effects and the west’s response, Mr Putin “might consider that his methodology . . . works quite well”, the general admitted.

He pointed to the Balkans as an area of mounting concern and one where a joined-up approach between the EU and Nato was needed. The Montenegro government claims Russia was behind a coup attempt there late last year. “We are aware [of what is going on in the Balkans] and we are watching it very, very carefully,” Gen Bradshaw said. “The Balkans are the soft southern underbelly of Europe.”

While western electorates were alive to the threat posed by Islamist extremism, Gen Bradshaw argued, many people did not grasp the dangers arising from tensions with Moscow.

“The threat from Russia is that through opportunism and mistakes and a lack of clarity regarding our deterrence we find ourselves sliding into an unwanted conflict which has existential implications.”

Gen Bradshaw said that while the changes Nato had instigated since 2014 were effective — including high-tempo war-games involving tens of thousands of troops in eastern Europe — conventional military tools would not be sufficient. The west needed to develop what he called “hybrid deterrence”, he said.

Nato and the EU agreed on greater co-operation on security matters at the alliance’s Warsaw summit last year, but some EU member states are blocking working together more formally, said Gen Bradshaw.

Closer ties have been impeded for years by tensions between Turkey, a Nato member but not in the EU, and Cyprus, which is in the EU but not Nato.

Gen Bradshaw has served as Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander) since 2014. He steps down later this month, and will be succeeded by Lt Gen James Everard. The role is traditionally given to a senior British officer. SACEUR, Nato’s top operational military position, is nominally held by a US officer.

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