Although not a “weapon” in the technological sense, Russian special forces represent one of the most effective tools in the Russian arsenal. They will have a major impact in any conflict with NATO, possibly even before NATO realizes the conflict has begun.
There is little question that NATO weaponry remains technologically ahead of Russian. The existence of a gap was clear in the 1980s, and the size of the gulf has grown since. However, the Russian military still commands sufficient resources, and can harness enough innovative thinking, to hurt NATO if a European dispute ever came to blows.
We hope, of course, that these weapons (and their equivalents on the NATO side) fulfill their purpose as deterrents. Nevertheless, it behooves NATO to think hard about how to solve the problems that these weapons present, especially when used in conjunction with one another.
Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat. Follow him on Twitter:@drfarls.