As a person who runs a defense blog, I am obviously not the defense agnostic reader that Shirreff had in mind when he wrote the book, yet I found that I was exactly the kind of reader who would benefit from it. In fact, I found it truly enjoyable and educational. With insightful accuracy, Shirreff points at the most sore shortcomings of NATO: Wavering alliance cohesion, inability to make necessary decisions, unequal burden sharing, lack of crisis awareness among European governments, inadequate presence in the Baltic States, vulnerability to cyber attacks and hybrid warfare, inability to mobilize forces that only exist on paper, bureaucratic obstacles to force movements, and a military deterrence that is too dependent on nuclear weapons.
Shirreff also successfully explains the technical quality of modern Russian weapons and the effectiveness of Russian military doctrine. I think the book falls short when it comes to the description of Russian nationalism and the basic motivation that could lead Russia to initiate a war in the first place. A strength of the fictional genre is that it makes it possible to give the reader a personal relationship with a representative of the other side, but the Russians in the story are without exception unpleasant human beings, and their dreams and aspirations remain too simple to be plausible.
War With Russia fails to give the reader the unsettling revelation that rational actions by scrupulous people on both sides could lead to war. To some extent the book resembles an extended description of an exercise scenario, but that is actually a good thing. For a reader with some knowledge of defense affairs it adds a context that can deepen the understanding of connections between related issues.
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