I wrote on my German mirror blog "Verteidigung und Freiheit" about the NRF, or rather the German contribution to it: A reinforced Panzergrenadier (~mechanized infantry) battalion.
It turned into something of a rant.

Much has been written about equipment shortages and cannibalization of units to scrounge up equipment for prioritized units, but that's not my main concern. This is how the Bundeswehr has always worked, and it's quite normal for military forces world-wide if they have prioritised units at all. The Bundeswehr was founded in the mid-50's and experienced an extreme shortage of spare parts and ammunition well into the 1960's because of poor planning and an inept if not corrupt minister of defence. Even during the 1990's there were still easily avoidable shortages and supply delays, even for simple things such as boots in large sizes.

My exasperation was and is more about the non-material side: The low readiness is rooted in a lack of ambition among the higher ranks of the officer corps and the lack of stern and competent (if not cleansing) civilian control than by the budget or its allocation. The contribution to the NRF is considered a quick reaction force for this:

By the time of the Alliance's next summit in Istanbul in June 2004, NATO had agreed upon greater specificity in the Prague blueprint: the NRF was to number some 24,000 troops at full operational capability, be able to start to deploy after five days' notice and sustain itself for operations lasting 30 days

Sorry, but my expectations for a rapid reaction capability are different. Acceptable are seven days including political decision-making lag till several brigades are combat-ready anywhere in the continental EU!
Back during the Cold War a dozen divisions had to be combat-ready in the field with a day's warning at most. The idea of requiring a month for war-readiness of an entire army was utterly idiotic back then, and it should be so today just as much. Today's alliance defence scenarios do not require more forces than the EU countries have they require a quick reaction to deter a coup de main attempt

A NATO response force is typical bureaucratic-political nonsense. Geography dictates that Poland and Germany need to be able to mount effective defences on the frontier within the first days. Everyone else's main forces are relevant more as a political mass to get an status quo ante armistice than relevant during the decisive initial phase of a potential aggression.

Germany is paying about EUR 30 billion per year on its military, so German taxpayers are entitled to a ready force. Its size is of secondary importance in comparison to its readiness. Anything short of a useful and ready force a failure of the bureaucracy, and this means one should exert suffering on the bureaucracy* to punish the bureaucracy into delivering a good deal.


*: Bureaucracies hate to lose respect, to lose prestige, to be disparaged, to lose titles, to lose budget, to lose amenities for top management, to lose top management positions, to lose personnel in general, to lose prestige projects, to lose traditional subdivisions, to have foreign experts injected into its staffs. There are many ways to punish a bureaucracy into delivering a worthy output.

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