Saturday, November 09, 2013

Returning to Europe

I don't think that Russia is about to lunge west. But it doesn't hurt to reduce the temptation until sanity prevails in Moscow about their place in the world and where the real threats to Russia lie.

If Russia's leadership can stop portraying the West as a looming threat to Mother Russia, exercises like Steadfast Jazz won't be necessary.

Sure, this year it isn't much of a commitment by American forces:

Many NATO partners view Steadfast Jazz as one of the most important NATO training events in recent memory. It is also seen as an opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate its commitment to transatlantic security now that 10,000 U.S. troops will leave their permanent bases in Europe. The U.S. decision to send only 200 troops to Steadfast Jazz sends the wrong message to allies and potential adversaries alike and ultimately undermines U.S. interests in the region.

But it is a start to making sure new NATO states in eastern Europe are fully protected members of the alliance. I'm not going to panic because we sent so few.

If we keep sending so few, that would be a problem. And it seems to me that we do plan more there.

I think even more is necessary to have adequate defense plans:

In addition to maintaining sufficient forces deployed in Europe able to move east to reinforce the eastern European NATO frontline states, we should establish American, British, and German equipment depots for additional heavy brigades in southern Poland. If we can fly in troops to man these forces, in a return of forces to Poland (REFORPOL) concept, we'd enhance deterrence without forward deploying powerful NATO offensive units that would scare the Russians in reality instead of their faux fear of Georgians and Latvians. Those units could swing north or south or stay put once manned and fielded.

So far, counting on a benign Russia that is a strategic partner, we've extended NATO membership east without extending NATO military strength east in any significant fashion. It is time to correct that mistake. Russia has shown they'll strike at gaps in our defenses. Fill those gaps.

Of course, my hopes to retain the core force of 5 brigades for a corps in Europe is gone. We'll only have two brigades there in the future. But prepositioned equipment would be a start to making up for that.

Sadly, I don't know if Germany or Britain could manage a brigade-sized force of equipment in Poland just in case. So it would be up to us.

Facing resistance from NATO to an attack is way different than Russia believing they could grab a piece of land and dare NATO to retake the land in the face of Russian resistance. Let's not provide a tempting target for Russia. It would be better for both of us.

I have hopes that Russia will come to their senses and join the West. Of course, there are limits. I don't think Russia could join NATO and extend Belgium's defense commitments to the defense of Vladivostok.