Wednesday, December 02, 2015

U. S. Army Europe--East

Major General Scales (US Army, retired) calls for a few American heavy brigades in the Baltic NATO states. I'd rather not dangle main maneuver units that close to Russia's army.

Russia's actions and rhetoric certainly justify this response:

Put heavy-armored American ground units into Eastern Europe within marching distance of the Baltics. Position a heavy-armored brigade in each Baltic state and two in neighboring Poland. All but two of the American brigades might be limited to prepositioned brigade “sets” of materiel in Europe with troops stationed in the U.S.

I assume he means Estonia and Latvia would get actual brigades since they border on Russia proper, while Lithuania and Poland only border on Russia's Kaliningrad enclave which has 3 heavy brigades (according to Scales in the article).

With a Stryker brigade and airborne brigade back in Germany and Italy, we'd have 4 brigades fully manned with 3 more brigade sets (assuming an activity set we are building is a third source of equipment) ready to receive troops. That's a significant force--backed by our air power--against what Russia can bring to bear these days.

But I still wouldn't want to put heavy brigades or their equipment into the Baltic states. They would be tripwire only and subject to destruction or isolation (if the Russians strike through Lithuania and cut off the units to the north.

The equipment sets would be vulnerable to Russian Spetsnaz attacks or air and missile strikes.

And I still have hopes that saner heads might prevail in Moscow eventually. But that is a secondary concern over the military aspect that worries me of forward-deployed tripwires.

I do like the idea of a corps in Europe. I wanted 5 brigades with a corps headquarters in Europe and argued for it here (just go to my article in the PDF of the entire Military Review issue) in 2002.

Although at the time I wanted a lighter corps to avoid giving Russia an excuse to feel targeted by us, my caution was futile since Russia claims we are plotting against Holy Mother Russia's sacred soil with but a single under-gunned Stryker brigade and an airborne brigade in Europe.

So I'd go to putting a heavy corps back in Europe with a chunk of its brigades forward deployed in Europe and another good chunk in prepositioned sets on the ground in Poland.

I addressed the need for a corps more recently, too. I noted the prepositioned set notion for Poland (calling it REFORPOL), linking my post from August 2008, after Russia hammered Georgia in the Goons of August War.

Rather than heavy brigades in the Baltic states, I'd want an old-style cavalry regiment in Latvia, with a detached battalion task force in Estonia, where they'd screen the border, act as a tripwire, and have a shot at a fighting withdrawal while they inflict losses on the advancing Russians. Move the Fulda Gap east.

Russia seems predisposed to be paranoid about us regardless of what we do--even issuing threats about the dreaded Montenegrin hordes being put at NATO's service:

Russia on Wednesday said it would be forced to react to NATO expansion after the US-led alliance invited Montenegro to become its 29th member.

Are you effing kidding me? In 2012, Montenegro's entire active military totaled fewer than 3,000 in all their services. That forces a Russian reaction.

So let's focus on building up combat power capable of reacting to Russia without being smashed in the opening days of a war.