The Post Cold War Era ended when Russia’s ‘little green men’ began to deploy across Crimea, surrounding Ukrainian military bases and eventually forcing the Ukrainians to leave without a fight.
Only then did a long slumbering NATO begin to stir from sleep. As fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine, NATO then sat up in bed and began gathering it’s bearings. ‘Reveille’ however, was no longer in doubt when regular Russian Army forces entered the fight in eastern Ukraine.
What has become clear since then is that a grave series of mistakes have been made since the final Soviet collapse and subsequent break up the Soviet military machine.
The most glaring mistakes:
- no effort to seriously modernize, revitalize and truly integrate the military forces of former Warsaw Pact nations that joined NATO
- not instituting a series of theatre level air, land & sea exercises in eastern Europe with defense against a Russian resurgence in mind
- maintaining the outdated policy of not permanently stationing NATO forces east of the old Iron Curtain line
- not implementing a military ‘Marshall Plan’ to develop the military forces of the Baltic States upon joining NATO
- the cancellation on the 70th anniversary of the 1939 invasion of Poland of the missile defense shield for Eastern Europe by Pres. Obama.
There will be seemingly dark days ahead for NATO. Barring some kind of miracle, Ukraine simply has no hope in the end of standing toe to toe with the Russian Army. NATO is not a party to that fight, nor should it try to be.
The eventual fall of Ukraine is unquestionably a horrid thought.
But, NATO member nation political and military leadership have to fetch the sobriety that eventuality puts forth and ‘run with it’ as an American football player would run for the touchdown. All is by no means lost and there is still time for preparation, some of which is already under way.
NATO in 2014 is faced with a very wide eastern front stretching from Arctic Norway, to Turkey. If Finland should join NATO, the Scandinavian theatre of that front will very much widen.
Land warfare with Russia along the European theatre of this front would encompass highly mobile and air-mobile combat operations. Russia would employ wide, sweeping maneuvers of their forces spearheaded with air-mobile and armor formations in attempts to outflank, surround and destroy NATO forces.
NATO would need to employ ‘flexible defense’ giving ground in some sectors before counter attacking to cut off a Russian advance inside NATO lines and destroy it.
Steps have already begun to be taken by NATO with such warfare in mind. Britain is altering its concept of operations to draw on forward staged British armor in Germany, rather than moving it in from the British Isles when a crisis erupts.
Britain is also selling 123 armored fighting vehicles (AFV) to Latvia, which currently has a mere three ex-Polish T-55 tanks. Estonia and Lithuania have no tanks at all, and like Estonia only light infantry formations. These AFVs would have no hope against a Russian main battle tank, however they are tailor-made for the style of urban warfare currently being employed in Ukraine, which is likely to rear its head again among the Russian minority areas in the Baltic States.
Western European governments are also reviewing the role of main battle tanks (MBT) and will likely reverse the twenty year trend of slowly bleeding off funding of tank production. Germany has sold 14 Leopard 2A4 MBT’s and 105 Leopard 2A5 MBT’s to Poland. These 119 tanks will form a higher end core to augment Poland’s T-72 tanks and Polish improved variants of the T-72, (PT-91 Twardy).
Another development in NATO operational doctrine is the forming of rapid deployment airborne forces which can be quickly put into action in NATO’s east. While they don’t currently approach anything near the large numbers that would likely be needed, it is at least the embryo of future commands and formations to be developed and as this NATO video shows, tactical operations doctrine development can be approached now through exercises such as Steadfast Javelin.
Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Phillip Breedlove is also pushing for the development of a 24/7 headquarters in Poland which would be the command center for operations in Poland and the Baltic States. Gen. Breedlove has proven not to be under any illusions about Russian actions in Ukraine, or what it portends for the future of NATO security.
There have not yet been major new developments on the naval warfare planning front. Aside from one, which is that British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the plan to have one of Britain’s two new large aircraft carriers operational and the other in reserve has been scrapped. Both carriers will be fully operational assets of the Royal Navy as each is commissioned into service. Which was the plan under the Blair Government that legislated their construction.
NATO leadership have an enormous amount of work to do in the near future, for as Gen. Breedlove said, “It is indeed a momentous time in Europe.” And, for the last 12 to 14 years, NATO planning was taken with the idea of ‘Russia as a partner’. That is no longer the case.
Bold steps have to be taken by political and military leadership of NATO to deter against Russian adventurism. It would be a smart move to begin reestablishing a robust human intelligence (HUMINT) network focused on Russia.
It may also be time to revisit some Cold War policies and tactics of deterrence. Particularly those of the Reagan administration in the areas of peacetime military exercises designed to ‘rattle cages’ in the Kremlin and give notice that merely ‘holding the line’ is not our only option if attacked.
The Cold War had an unwritten set of rules which both sides understood and respected, if never publicly acknowledged. Putin’s Russia is not the USSR nor even Communist. It is the rebirth of a nationalistic imperialism not seen since 1945. The kind of thuggery that not only seeks to win, but also to conquer.