Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Shift East Begins

We will move NATO units east to deter Russia. It isn't enough.

This is good:

NATO allies reportedly plan to put four battalions in Poland and other Baltic countries to beef up its Russian border as Moscow steps up military activity.

According to The Wall Street Journal Friday, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work confirmed the overall size of the force – about 4,000 troops – and said the reinforcements were a response to the increased Russian activity around the nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Western officials told the paper that the U.S. will likely provide two of the battalions and Germany and Britain will likely supply the other two.

This is good. But with Russia having such an advantage in troop strength on their border (notwithstanding the overall--but scattered, all the way across the Atlantic at the extreme--NATO superiority over Russia) we need to do more.

As I wrote about 8 years ago, urging an updated version of REFORGER:

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.

So four battalions sent east are nice, but they should be the forward elements of four brigades (please be heavy brigades) as we build United States Army Europe--East. NATO should earmark the balance of the brigades these battalions are part of to reinforce them and place the equipment sets for them in Poland.

That way the brigades would be easier to swing between north and south (and more likely north as long as Ukraine is not dominated by Russia) to link up with the forward battalions.

Even this isn't enough to defend the Baltic states, but they'd add to deterrence. And combined with better transportation and logistic links between old NATO in the west and new NATO to the east--and an American corps headquarters to plan and command a real campaign in Europe--could create the ability to flow enough NATO troops to win toward Russia to oppose and counterattack a Russian invasion.

Then we'd have real deterrence based on warfighting abilities.

And I'll say it again, I'd pay good money to restore armored cavalry regiments to our Army.