Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reality is Dangerous Enough

One author notes the reality of Russian reorganization that some in the West have portrayed as both an increase in Russian troop strength and forward deployment against the Baltic states.

Russia is reorganizing but not increasing their army:

In military reforms initiated in 2008, Russia abandoned the division level in favor of smaller and more rapidly deployable brigades. Now, they are returning to the division structure, which indicates that the Russian leadership assesses the chances for a mid- to large-scale military conflict as more possible. This fact alone should cause concern.

However, that does not mean that Russia is creating additional forces. What is known is that already existing and deployed brigades will be merged to form two new divisions in the Western Military District and one in the Southern Military District. Furthermore, two brigades, currently stationed in the Central Military District, will be put under the control of the newly formed command structure.

It is not true is that that at least one of the divisions will be moved close to the Baltics. One will be stationed in Novocherkassk (Oblast Rostov), close to Mariupol, one in Boguchar (Oblast Voronezh) and Valuyki (Oblast Belgorod), north of Ukraine, and one in Yelnya (Oblast Smolensk), east of Belarus. Neither the Kaliningrad nor the Pskov oblasts, bordering Poland and the Baltics has (so far) seen a permanent build-up of Russian tanks and armored combat vehicles.

Which is what I thought when the reports of new Russian divisions being sent to their western front came out (and in an update, Strategypage confirmed that no new troops were involved).

Links in that post note the locations that seem far from the Baltics and that the Russians at least believe a bigger war is possible, requiring controlling army headquarters.

I note these things because it is good to have reassurance that I don't just repeat convenient news without judging it on its merits and whether it makes sense. It would have been easy to do what the media reports did and at least imply that the Russians are building up forces on the border with the NATO Baltic states. That did not seem to be the case, and that's what I wrote about.

The reality of Russia's actual military moves belies Moscow's propaganda claims that NATO itself is dangerously massing troops in the Baltics. What we have is a trip wire of up to 4,000 troops:

President Barack Obama said the United States would deploy about 1,000 soldiers in Poland under the plan "to enhance our forward presence in central and eastern Europe". Germany will lead the battalion in Lithuania, Britain in Estonia and Canada in Latvia. Other nations such as France will supply troops.

The units in the Baltic states will be multi-national while the American battalion in Poland will be a pure American unit because it represents an existing plan to put an American brigade there if needed:

The official said the United States ended up with the Poland assignment in part because it already had committed to putting the headquarters of the armored combat brigade team here and Poland has the necessary infrastructure.

I'm assuming that we will have equipment for the balance of the brigade placed there. So REFORPOL is beginning.

Russia implicitly agrees that our plans are no threat to Russia given that their troops are not heading to defend St. Petersburg.