Summary: Enhanced deterrence and defence for Baltic security


(2) A base relocation of Polish land forces; more close to Warsaw, mostly east of Vistula, minimum 100 km distance from Kaliningrad Oblast

(3) A Military subsidy program by wealthy NATO countries to assist all three Baltic countries in equipping, paying and training their land forces including artillery, possibly tank battalions and substantial air defences. Much more reservists in Lithuania and Latvia (possible without conscription if there is enough money to pay a fair price for manpower in training). Essentially, they should together turn into something like Israel or Switzerland; disproportionally armed (at least regarding land power).

(4) A Polish land forces improvement program at the expense of the (largely useless) Polish air force and the (utterly useless) Polish navy

(5) The German Luftwaffe should redeploy its area air defence units and an additional Typhoon wing to Eastern Germany and ensure their high readiness

(6) The German Heer should shape up, shake off complacency and turn into a force that can deploy multiple combat-ready combined arms brigades to the area of Warsaw on road in very few days, including pontoon bridging engineers. The necessary expenses can be financed by raiding the useless navy's budget and cutting some other nonsense.

(7) The Czech army should ensure that at least one very high readiness combined arms brigade is available at any time

(8) The French Armée de l'air should train to deploy 80% of its Rafales (including the naval ones) and its SAMP/T batteries to East Germany in a day, with munitions and ground crews

(9) The French Armée de terre should be ready to deploy two all-wheeled brigades and pontoon bridging engineers to the area of Warsaw in very few days

(10) Establishment of NATO land forces training centre in SW Poland, with at all times 3-4 rotating NATO land manoeuvre brigades present
(11) Prepositioning of NATO standard munitions in Poland to ease supply and deployment challenges
(12) Preparation of additional airbases in East Germany and Czech Republic, possibly also addition of hardened (unoccupied) aircraft shelters on commercial airports
(13) The U.S.Army should change all of its currently in Germany based brigades into Armored Brigade Combat Teams with enough tank transporters. Currently here are the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker (medium) Brigade Combat Team, instead. Both are much more flawed than Armored Brigade Combat teams are, and thus of little use in Europe. The U.S.Army should leave Central Europe once (10) is in full swing, especially since (3) is much, much more cost-efficient than forward-basing on a different continent. A few air-deployable brigades with 155 mm L/52 SPGs, powerful anti-MBT equipment and conventional warfare training based on the Eastern Coast would be a much more appropriate early intervention land forces contribution in the long term.*

(14) The Italian Aeronautica Militare should be prepared to deploy Typhoon units with munitions and ground crews to Hungary in very few days, protected by SAMP/T-equipped air defence units.

(15) Enlarged munition stocks of all relevant powers; More than ten high end air combat missiles per combat aircraft. More than 4,000 quality shells per artillery piece. More than 200 HE (or HESH) shells per MBT. Large quantities of surface-to-air missiles.

(16) Generally more robust (very) short range air defences and anti tank guided missile types available in quantity. The fashionable IR guidance is not reliable enough in face of countermeasures.

Still possible without endangering any ally:

(a) Huge military spending cuts in many NATO member countries, especially the United States, which have insane spending levels beyond what they can afford with their domestic politics.

(b) Huge cuts in naval spending and strength of European NATO / EU countries. There's hardly any threat in the Mediterranean, naval warfare in the Baltic Sea would be marginal and the Russian Northern fleet will in the long term only be capable in regard to SSBN and SSN patrols.
SSBNs should be left alone even in the event of war; never threaten the enemy's second strike capability, lest you provoke a first strike! 

(c) Substantial cuts in air power strength in Europe. Transport aircraft are super expensive and of little use; the slowness isn't about speed of movement, but about readiness. Much of Europe's air power is in a competence maintenance mode, using obsolete combat aircraft. Typhoons, Rafales, Gripens and Tornado ECR are relevant. Hardly anything can still be expected from F-16A/Bs, Mirage 2000, AMX and F/A-18A/Bs against Russian air defences and fighters if Russia's leadership actually gained enough confidence in its forces to dare an aggression.

(d) No return to conscription

(e) Bulk of land forces can still be limited to modest readiness to deploy to Poland. Spanish brigades could arrive after 2-4 weeks, for example. The Bulk of European land power would not need to be  available for defence in the first week; it would instead make aggression pointless in the longer run (overmatch of total European forces over Russia+Belarus).

(f) The bulk of the land forces in European NATO / the EU can even shrink, for European NATO and EU outnumber the Russian military almost 2:1 without any North American help. In several armies a combination of fewer better quality combined arms brigades with infantry-qualified reserves would be much more useful than the present quantity of low quality brigades and regiments.

Helpful, but doubtful:

(I) A plan for Baltic defence that threatens the Russian position in the Caucasus region in return to a Russian forces concentration near the Baltics, deterring the deployment of Southern Military District forces to the Western Military District. This requires Turkish political will.

(II) A Russia that's more busy with East Asian challenges; this could be provoked with something as simple as a blockbuster movie about a Chinese invasion of Siberia that pushes the idea that more Russian land power needs to be in the Far East. Follow up with pushing the narrative in social media.

related earlier posts (those not linked to above):


P.S.: That link list looks as if  I wasn't all that lazy after all. 

*: Keep in mind the U.S. would practically need to deploy at least one airborne brigade and one (USMC?) combat aircraft wing equivalent to Iceland to secure it whenever Russia seems to prepare a move against any NATO member. This reduces what air power and land power can be airlifted to Central and Eastern Europe.

later P.S.: I didn't write much about the UK here because I expect their withdrawal from Germany to go on till 2019 as planned, considering the political climate (Brexit). The continent-based unit most valuable for the security effort is likely the 23rd Amphibious Engineer Squadron (with its 38 M3 Amphibious Rigs), as described before. I consider deployment from the island to the continent as easily disrupted and thus too slow for first week intervention in force. The UK's land forces are thus rather comparable to the Spanish ones in their role; relevant for the force balance after the first two weeks (and additionally relevant for Norway).


  1. I apologize for long post.
    Every thought experiment has its own axiomatics, that`s unavoidable. But imo you presuppose three things which I see a little bit debatable.
    First, there is question concerning political will of individual NATO member states to defend another member states. Although, according to your own analysis, nobody is obliged to do anything specific under Article 5, you do plan as if everybody is simply in the same boat. You even plan force reductions in Europe etc. But for example Orbán`s Hungary surely isn`t in the same boat as Baltics, and I wonder if Italy is (no insult or disrespect intended). If Czech finance minister, oligarch and former communist spy, manages to win next elections and EU dosn`t stop investigating his misuse of European subsidies, we may even end up in Shanghai Cooperation Organization instead of EU and NATO, in just few years. So you better keep some redundancies in your pool of alliance`s military units. The bigger, the better.
    Second, even so called (pro)Russian "rebels" in Donbas have as much tanks as Polish Land Forces in their inventory (600). And Poland`s tank forces are as large as Heer`s and Armée de terre`s combined. On the other side, Russia still has about 15 000 tanks. Sure, much of these are literally crap, but Russians can probably use their complete modernised force (1 000 T-72B3, 400 T-90AM, 400 T-14 in 2018) on sole front. Byelorusia itself has about 500 tanks (T-80, T-72). NATO AT capacities (minus air force fighting AA systems in Kaliningrad enclave) can be saturated and exhausted in just few hours.
    Third, there is Russian problematic nuclear doctrine, "escalation to deescalate" and first use. Realistically, you shouldn`t ignore it in your scenario.
    Now some selective comments.
    (7) Czech army has about 30 modernized Soviet era tanks for its combined arms brigade (T-72M4CZ). Acording to crews, there are serious problems with spare parts, especially for Italian FCS which is out of production several years and its former supplier no longer exists. This year Czechs were even inspecting improperly stored Spanish Leopards 2, but these old tanks are in very bad shape. So how many tanks we can actually employ it's anybody`s guess.
    (12) There are few old Czechoslovak airbases with reinforces hangars for example in Pardubice, Brno, Náměšť nad Oslavou, Vyškov, Ostrava. Náměšť (ex Su-7 fighter bomber airbase) still see some use (copters), but Czech Gripens are based elsewhere (Čáslav, Central Bohemia).
    (a) At first, we should probably push for change of existing NATO metrics. Poland spends > 2 % GDP for defense and doesn`t even plan for much needed adequate pontoon bridge system. New Polish pontoon system can be even worse than old one from sixties, no much of use on Vistula. NATO should plan for capabilities instead of spending.
    (I) Mini-Caucasus scenario can be arranged without Turkey imo - just about two BCTs in Georgia.

    1. Well, the Italians can be counted on to change sides in the event of war, we have experience with that. It may be the Condottieri heritage.

      Russia's tank arsenal is not that huge any more. They kept scrapping and selling thousands of T-55s, T-62s and early series T-72s. Hardly any of the stored Russian tanks will be of much use. Just about everything about them would need to be replaced for satisfactory function. They didn't refurbish them prior to storing them; they stored worn-out pieces.

      Concerning nukes and ignoring; how about reading my scenario first?

      About Caucasus; only the Americans can deploy two brigades there on the quick, but they are addicted to air supremacy, close air support and large volume bi-daily resupply. They would almost certainly hesitate and wait till they have superior forces assembled instead of arriving and charging like a Rommel. The only times they deviate from this standard timidity (as shown in Anzio etc.) they blunder (Task Force Smith) for want of great firepower.
      The mere eastward movement of the bulk of the Turkish land forces would be more impressive than two brigades.

  2. I read you scenario and shared link several times.

    "In particular, area-denial capabilities as well as credible ballistic missile defence systems are encouraging some nuclear powers to contemplate the use of limited tactical nuclear weapon strikes in conventional war fighting," not to speak of few outdated B-61 gravitational bombs as deterrent of their adversaries.


    1. There's a nuclear bomb effects calculator. It's a paper dial thing, but you can use it on the net as well. Play a bit with it:

      You'll see that the effective radius against troops is rather 'disappointing' for the Nagasaki-sized small tactical nukes. You need about 100 kt to reach the degree of destruction that's popularly associated with nukes.
      This gets even more "disappointing" once you look into 1950's and 1960's military literature and see how much cover and dispersion were expected to mitigate nuclear warhead effects based on the 1950's tests.

      A few small nukes simply aren't worth opening Pandora's box. You can do quite the same with conventional arty.

      A couple exploding 100 kt warheads on the other hand would not let anyone consider the war "limited" any more.

      I meant to write about this "disappointing" thing and how nuke effects have an inflated reputation once, but who wants to look like a nukes apologist?

  3. Is that blockbuster movie reference to Tom Clancy, Prophet of Benevolent America, "The Bear and the Dragon" ? Because that's a costly adaptation to film, but a viable IP. This could be a thing. Recapitalise on the "North Korean" units used in Red Dawn 2.0: Jingoism Harder.

    I am interested in where you got your information on Soviet and Russian storage practices for their MBT fleet. You're quite correct that many thousands of units have been removed from inventory, but I'd like to read what you have on whose tanks were stored and how, when.

    1. Want to see some of the Russian strategic tank reserves?
      Even the muzzles are open, not plugged. They didn't even bother to bring the machines into an arid area.

      IISS still claims 17,500 tanks in storage ("Military Balance 2016"), but I disagree that scrap metal could be called "tank" in this context.
      To get tanks that were "stored" since the early 90's (at the latest) back into operation would require a thorough refurbishment that only museums and collectors would afford. All electronics are dead or non-existing.

      You can also be certain that the components with short life span (tracks, cannon barrels, engines, gearboxes) of those "stored" tanks were close to their end of life anyway. Rubber seals are leaky by now due to old age. Batteries are dead. Hydraulic and electric systems are likely rotten.

      The Russian army would be glad if it could bring to bear 2,900 MBTs in the first six months - that's the active service tanks plus the ~200 stored T-90's.

      That's not terribly much considering that these tank model represent 1970's and 1980's technology and are mostly inferior to Leo2, Leclerq, CR2 and M1A2.

    2. Your example is Kharkhiv, in the Ukraine, not Russian storage: but if we take it as representative of storage methods in use as a result of the Fall it's still broadly applicable. In the luckiest cases the FCS and engines may have been removed and stored indoors.

      Soviet methodology was to, whenever possible, run only a company's worth of tanks and rotate crews through this company of vehicles to train them. In this way the majority of their tank fleet would have consumed fewer operating hours which in most Soviet vehicles were quite limited. Obviously this goes out the window in major exercises when the entire regiment is on the move. Vehicles may not have been terribly worn out when they went into storage... but I rather suspect you're right and that any assets not sold off or cannibalised or recapitalised (rebuilt into later marks) are by now, a quarter-century on, scrap iron.

      Consider also that some vehicle types can't be easily maintained domestically and since they've just shit all over Ukraine, probably never will be. The T-64, T-80 fleets in high readiness units largely went back to Russia, but the plants for T-64/80 parts were in Ukraine. That's why all subsequent RF development has been on the T-72, the factory for which is nestled in the Urals.

    3. Oops. I didn't re-find the other sources on the quick.

      The rotation that you describe is what applies to the active tank inventory. That's the 2,700 tanks. Most of these are kept "ready" with only a small share used on regular (for example platoon-level) training.

      The T-80 was developed in Leningrad/St. Petersburg. Spare parts production should be no substantial problem.

    4. Even these terribly stored Ukrainian vehicles (T-64, T-80) are gradually refurbished and put back into service.

      Maybe that main effects of tactical nukes are of psychological and political sort. And Russia in the last years (2009+) simulated nuclear attacks on Warsaw, Stockholm or Bornholm. (Nuclear-tipped Iskander is tactical operational weapon, acoording to old Soviet standards.)

      It seems to me that Russian generals aren`t very interested in strict military effectivity of the nukes. They plan "break the will to fight". Douhet on steroids.

  4. My first point was that the entire active tank fleet during the Soviet period was run like that. Therefore tanks that went into storage may not have been run to ground before being stored. That was all. It's important to consider since reactivation would logically focus on the least beat up tanks first. Of course that level of analysis isn't going to be conducted in a blog's comment roll.

    Secondly, no, the machine was not developed in SPb. Nizhniy Tagil, Kharkov, and Kirov are not Leningrad: and both the UKTBM and LKZ plants had difficulty producing T-80, causing them to build T-72s instead. Again: this is why the T-90 is based on the T-72. This seems trivial but really isn't when you consider the FCS differences between the two vehicles: hopefully mooted because as you describe with good reason, hopefully, the majority of those vehicles are rustbuckets.

    1. Kirov Factory, former 'Leningrad Kirov Plant' in St. Petersburg, former Leningrad; developers of the T-80 tank

      Production lines for the T-80 were in Omsk, Leningrad/St. Petersburg (both Russia) and Kharkiv (Ukraine).

      The main dissatisfaction with the T-80 was about the gas turbine (built into most T-80s).

  5. (17) Every NATO member should go through it's inventories and take in particular a hard look at stored air-defence systems, bridging, MBTs (+ engineering variants), MRL and SPG. There could be much salvageable depending on the specific conditions and it might be possible to get a decent amount into a workable state. Donate some sensibly to the Baltic states and put the rest of the decent AFV into usuable conditions.

    At worst you can shoot them up in said new training areas.

    (13) No US forces in Europe seems to be rather radical. It truly depends on European willigness to implement proper reforms and mentality. Even in this case some US brigades rotating through the SW Poland training areas make sense to shift the US military focus more on conventional war and to help keeping it there (somewhat).


    P.S: It's often rather amusing what the press writes and shows...


    1. The U.S. could even preposition an Armored BCT's equipment at a Polish/NATO training area and rotate only the personnel of different brigades in. But there's absolutely no need for U.S. forces in Europe if only the Europeans make a larger part of their forces relevant for the first week.
      The existence of permanent U.S. bases in Europe perpetuates the nonsense idea that Europe couldn't defend itself or doesn't spend enough on the military. That's why I want to get rid of U.S. combat formations in Europe ion the long term.
      Both American and Europeans shall wake up to the reality of the power imbalance between Russia and Europe.

    2. But the Russians can vote too. And they think we are weeklings. Especially West Europeans. And especially Germans. Your SPD`s foreign ministry confirms this assessment.

    3. I can see your logic and it has it's advantages. In any case the European members should work smart and hard to make their force capable to achieve main aim, collective defence credible for the only potentially dangerous aggresso nearby. Recent elections and referendums have shown that much surprising can happen.

      Still your large NCT-inspired area would open up new possibilities for US forces as well. With enough equipment based there Brigades could be exposed to a broader framework of different Opfor and allies with their takes on tactics, material and mentalities. It certainly could help those in the US forces which are unhappy with various developments from micromanagement to (counter-)electronic warfare against a capable opponent.


    4. @Karel
      "the Russians" don't matter much. They don't live in a real democracy. Putin is no doubt aware that his ground forces in the Western military district are roughly on par with the Polish land forces alone. That's how weak Russia is in the West.

      Our deterrence works fine as long as the political elite doesn't buy into its own propaganda or the bollocks of jingoists and other men who need to compensate something by at least looking down on others.