The report focuses on the mobility of NATO forces on the “Eastern flank” in the event of a military escalation or direct military conflict between the US and NATO with Russia in the Baltic States. General Hodges ‘ report,” While something is not moving, ” examines two options for the deployment and mobility of NATO forces in the event of a military conflict with Russia in the Baltic States.
The first option. We have already described the reconquest of the Baltic States.
Now about the next version of a possible military conflict with Russia in the Baltic States according to General Hodges.
The second scenario of military mobility in the Baltic States in the event of a military conflict with Russia assumes that NATO anticipates its opponent’s deployment. This is a kind of preventive action. The conflict diagram, in this case, looks like this. NATO recognizes the threat of imminent Russian military action in the Baltic region and acts quickly to get ahead of the enemy in deployment. In this scenario, the allies move only a limited number of their very high-readiness forces to the Baltic States before the start of hostilities. The scale of this NATO response will inevitably be smaller, but the movement should be significantly faster than in the case of a build-up of forces for an operation to regain control of the territory (see the first scenario).
The authors of the report” While something is not moving ” list the units involved in this operation:
— VJTF and possibly other parts of the NATO multinational Response Force (NRF), of which the VJTF is a part;
— and US forces based in Europe.
The VJTF joint high-readiness task force is a multi-national brigade of five maneuverable battalions supported by the air, marine component, and special forces. The leading VJTF units are ready to deploy in two days, and most of its units are up to seven days old. The VJTF brigade is built around a “responsible framework nation”. In 2020, this is Poland. Before that, Germany.
The US Army in Europe (USAREUR) currently has 35 thousand troops, and can “respond” with four brigades, including one heavy, one mechanized, one light amphibious and one helicopter:
– rotating tank brigade (ABCT) in Poland in Jagani;
– 12th multi-purpose army aviation brigade (helicopter CAB) in Ansbach, Germany;
— 173rd airborne brigade in Vicenza, Italy;
— 2nd Cavalry regiment (in practice, a mechanized Stryker brigade) in Wilzeck, Germany.
These main forces could support:
— 41-St artillery brigade, equipped with the jet systems of volley fire, Grafenwoehr, Germany;
— 10th air defense team (two divisions of the Patriot complex), Kaiserslautern, Germany.
These us Ground forces in Europe from the continental US could be supported by one airborne brigade from us global response force from the 82nd airborne division. This brigade is ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 96 hours of receiving the order.
The authors of the report” While something is not moving ” in the text forgot to mention the most crucial fact for the operation-deployed at the end of 2019 in poznań by agreement with the poles, the American army staff structure — the headquarters of the 1st Cavalry division, which would manage the entire operation of preventive deployment in the Baltic States.
In addition, in the description of the group involved, the authors of the report for some reason again “forgot” about the poles, who could act outside the VFTF in addition to their own forces — at least one additional mechanized brigade.
In General, the operation of pre-emptive deployment in the Baltic States looks quite speculative. It presupposes the deliberate pre-emption of the enemy. But what if the enemy does not expect the deployment of the NATO group in the Baltics and strikes at the moment of its “mobility”? This would lead to the defeat of the deployed NATO group, given all the difficulties described below in mobility to the Baltic States.
An effective response to a NATO crisis in a pre-emptive deployment situation in the Baltic States will require speed of recognition (that there is a crisis requiring action) and speed of decision-making (for the deployment of forces) and speed in assembling these forces. At the heart of this, a political solution is needed, and it must be swift and decisive. There will obviously be a problem of a political nature. In order to deploy, the above-mentioned NATO forces need mobility from different areas (Poland, Germany, Northern Italy, and the United States) and different transport. Currently, land mobility is practiced by NATO on regular exercises Saber Strike, air mobility of landing troops-Swift Response.
In the Baltics, the mobility problem is compounded by the lack of infrastructure to support large-scale traffic — for example, warehouses, car parks, gas stations — and, more fundamentally, the simple lack of geographical space.
The latter factor is particularly significant in the situation of the Suwalki corridor linking the Baltic States with Poland. The Suwalki corridor is a section of space only 65 km wide. The corridor is the only land link between the three Baltic States and the rest of NATO territory. The report claims that the Suwalki corridor runs from Poland to Lithuania on one highway (actually two, one highway goes to Lithuania from Suwalki, the other from Augusto von) with a restriction of 7.5 tons for vehicles and one railway line.
The ability to move military equipment and weapons by rail in the Baltic States is limited. The problem for NATO mobility is created by the Russian standard of railway gauge in the Baltic States-1520 mm, instead of the European standard of 1435 mm. The situation looks quite absurd here. For NATO mobility exercises in the Baltic States, usually, their organizers have to order railway cars 3-5 months before the start of the exercise, since they have to be collected from all over the post-Soviet space. NATO experts determine that a shortage of rail cars is often a useful indicator of upcoming major Russian military exercises.
To date, Lithuania has invested significant funds to alleviate the transport problem due to the gauge difference. The report claims that at the Lithuanian border station Motskave, the M1 Abrams main battle tank is unloaded and reloaded on a platform with a wider track in about 20 minutes.
The construction of the Rail Baltica railway with standard European gauge and a European train control system, which should connect the Baltic States with Poland, and through it with Western Europe, continues. Rail Baltica is scheduled to be completed in 2026. The project of another mainline, Rail Baltica — 2, is under development. It is obvious that Rail Baltica is of strategic importance for NATO’s mobility along the Baltic Railways. A European-gauge railway connection on the Warsaw — Tallinn route will speed up the delivery of NATO military equipment and equipment to the Baltic States.
Because of problems with the railway, NATO is now planning a large-scale military movement from the Polish-Lithuanian border to carry out on the highway. The highway section in the Suwalki corridor is obviously problematic.
The problem is ensuring the mobility of NATO air defense units when moving to the Baltic States and on its territory.
The authors of the report suggest in advance that military movements during the crisis on the roads of the Baltic States may be difficult due to the movement in the opposite direction of a large number of refugees and displaced persons.
In a rapid deployment situation, NATO will have to rely on strategic airlift to transport forces in advance. It is obvious that first of all, we are talking about the delivery by landing method of two light brigades of American paratroopers. Air transport opportunities among NATO’s European allies are limited. Therefore, we have to rely on the American potential.
In 2018, the armed forces of France, Germany, Spain, and the UK had 63 heavy military transport aircraft — A400M Atlas, C-17A Globemaster III, while the US had 264 vehicles of this kind — C-17A Globemaster III, C-5M Super Galaxy). The A400M has a load capacity of 37 tons, the C-17A-78 tons, and the C-5M — 129 tons.
It is obvious that at the NATO Defender Europe 20 exercise, which was disrupted due to the coronavirus, the “games” for the airborne troops involved were planned to train on “option two”, described in the report of General Hodges.
Us army’s 82nd airborne division headquarters was supposed to manage the amphibious training exercises in Defender Europe 20 in Swift Response 20 from a command post near Ramstein airbase, Germany — a total of 150 personnel. Three landing points were planned: in Georgia, Lithuania, and Latvia. The landing in Latvia was planned to involve paratroopers from the American 173rd airborne brigade (Vicenza, Italy), along with units of Spanish and Italian paratroopers. In the landing in Lithuania-American paratroopers from the 1st brigade of the 82nd American airborne division (Fort Bragg, North Carolina) together with Polish paratroopers from the 6th Polish airborne brigade (Cracow).
The plan for the Defender Europe 20 exercise confirms that in a situation of pre-emptive deployment, the NATO force in the Baltic States will be spearheaded by amphibious forces with the involvement of mainly US military transport aircraft and, to a lesser extent, NATO allies. Military transport aircraft will probably be used to transport light military equipment and weapons. Civil aviation aircraft can also be used to transport personnel from landing units.