By quadrupling spending to counter a mounting threat from Moscow, the United States’ military emphasis in Europe has shifted from reassuring allies and partners to deterring Russia from “exercising malign influence [and using] coercion” to bully countries on its western and southern borders, witnesses told a key House panel Wednesday.
Air Force Maj. Gen. David Allvin, serving in the top policy post in European Command, said the request for $3.4 billion for the two-year-old European Reassurance Initiative will allow the United States and NATO to respond quickly to new threats and also better predict Moscow’s behavior through the command’s new Russia Strategic Initiative. The strategic initiative is to avoid surprises like those in Crimea.
A tangible change will be reversing the trend of the American military pullback from the continent. Allvin cited the prepositioning of equipment for an armored brigade and armored brigades from the United States bringing their own M-1A Abrams main battle tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles to the continent for rotational training missions with allies and partners. He said the command is projecting more than 100 exercises between American and alliance forces, ranging in size from company level training to battalion and higher for the coming fiscal year.
US Marines with the Black Sea Rotational Force, fires TOW anti-tank missile on July 8 in Bulgaria. US Marine Corps Photo
Rand study had indicated that war games showed the need to add $13 billion in equipment and 3 armored brigades to prevent NATO from being overrun
From the perspective of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Russia’s threat to the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics, now member states that border Russian territory — may be the most problematic scenario for Europe. In a series of war games conducted between summer 2014 and spring 2015, RAND Arroyo Center examined the shape and probable outcome of a near-term Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The games’ findings are unambiguous: As presently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Fortunately, it will not require Herculean effort to avoid such a failure. Further gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades — adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities — could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states.
A force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades — adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities — could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states.
While not sufficient to mount a sustained defense of the region or to achieve NATO’s ultimate end state of restoring its members’ territorial integrity, such a posture would fundamentally change the strategic picture as seen from Moscow.
So Rand is recommending about 25000 to 35000 troops. However, the main component are the tanks and air power which would be about $13 billion worth of equipment.
In 2017, the command will receive an armored brigade combat team, an artillery brigade and a battalion to stand up a division headquarters, if needed for permanent stationing in Europe.
Allvin said in answer to a question about the downsize of the buildup “is an escalation risk.”
Citing “irresponsible behavior from the Baltic to the Black Sea” by Russia, Rachel Ellehuus, principal director of Europe and NATO policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said, even with that change and alliance solidarity against Russian coercion, “demand continues to outpace supply.”
“European nations and NATO have stepped up” their efforts to deter Russia from further military moves that it took in seizing Crimea, supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine and menacing the Baltic states by cyber attacks on their infrastructure.
SOURCES – USNI, RAND