Thursday, June 23, 2016

Defending the Suwalki Gap is Too Passive

If we're defending the Suwalki Gap, we've screwed up.

The Suwalki Gap is becoming a focal point of our thinking in opposing the Russian military threat to NATO:

The most vulnerable spot in the Western alliance is a 64-mile slice of the Polish border that extends from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to Belarus, according to allied officials.

Known as the Suwalki Gap, the narrow land route between Poland and Lithuania has become a growing focus of U.S. military planning, U.S. and allied officials say.

Military officers worry that in the event of a conflict with Moscow, the Russian military could use its forces in Kaliningrad, home to numerous military bases and bristling with advanced missiles, to effectively cut off the Suwalki Gap and sever the Baltic states from the rest of the alliance, they said. U.S. war planners believe the allies could have as little as 72 hours to reinforce the Suwalki Gap before Moscow would be able to effectively block access.

This reality is why I've been opposed to major NATO deployments to the Baltic states. Forces up there could be cut off by a Russian lunge west further south through Poland, just as the Soviets cut off so many German troops there during the Soviet offensive that pushed to Berlin.

Thinking of defending the Suwalki Gap is certainly necessary but it should be the last line of defense.

In case of war with Russia in Europe, the first order of business should be to take that Kaliningrad enclave that threatens the gap from the west. Holding the Suwalki Gap against a Russian military force advancing from Belarus would be a lot easier with a little more depth behind it, no?

And then we have Belarus, which is not part of Russia. So the Russians would have to cross through Belarus to reach the Suwalki Gap from the east. Long before war rears its ugly head, our diplomacy should be keeping this most important piece of territory in Europe out of Russia's hands.

As for the Baltics? We can't really defend them. Our aim has to be to survive and counter-attack and then liberate them.

As for the Suwalki Gap if that last line of defense has to be held, I'd give good money to have a full United States Army old-style armored cavalry regiment there to slow down the Russians and inflict casualties to buy time for help to arrive.

Add another ACR split into component squadron-sized battlegroups screening the Baltic states' borders with Russia.

As long as I'm wishing, add in REFORPOL NATO heavy brigade sets to southern Poland.