What Europeans could do for more efficient deterrence and defence

Europeans - both European NATO and EU - spend enough, have enough nuclear munitions and have enough manpower to deter aggression and defend themselves. I wrote about this several times, and the real world data on European military power is mightily in conflict with widespread perceptions which were warped by Americans. Thus this blog article won't be about hot to make European defence more effective. It's about efficiency; in this case having both enough military power to quickly force a status quo ante white peace after an (hypothetical) aggression.
I'll heavily lean on what I wrote before, so this is in part a summary.

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In general
  • Orient the military towards deterrence and defence against Russia (excluding Turkey here despite it's in NATO). Mediterranean defence and long-term security against a potentially hostile United States are very unlikely scenarios that justify very, very little expenses.
  • Any non-overt armed incursion needs to be faced with the same decisively destructive power that would be applied to military forces, and preferably so within 60 hrs. The first salami slice needs be salted at a dosage that eliminates all appetite for more for at least one generation. 
Naval affairs
  • Even maritime-minded people who are very much impressed by their naval history or long coastlines should begin to rationally think about the limit of the actual need for naval power. 
  • Both the Russian Baltic and Black Sea fleets are close to irrelevant luxuries. Their ships might launch cruise missiles, and accomplish very little else. Their ability to let loose of all their land attack cruise missiles in the first minute of a conflicts turns all efforts for the quick destruction of these fleets moot. These fleets might leave their home waters and join the Russian fleet in the Arctic, for example. This means that European countries with Black Sea and Baltic Sea ports cannot rationally justify naval expenses with these Russian fleets that would only need be destroyed if they leave said waters - and would easily destroyed by air power and land-based systems if they attempted to do so during a hot conflict. 
  • Countries in proximity to Russian territory (Germany, Poland, Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria) should thus not bother spending on naval power because farther back countries - several of which are naval-obsessed - can deal with whatever naval threat is on the Atlantic Ocean, while simultaneously being in a much worse geographic position to quickly and efficiently provide land power for defence (and thus deterrence).
  • Rear area maritime shipping lanes (Hamburg to Gibraltar)  could be secured with a land-based approach and boats instead of prestigious and expensive warships that would not possibly be available in sufficient numbers anyway.
Air power
  • The rule of the pilot caste needs be broken, or else both the use of drones and the use of ground and sea-launched cruise and quasiballistic missiles for precision strikes on stationary and semi-stationary targets will keep being neglected in favour of more pilot seats.
  • Air forces need to redeploy their high value assets (mobile radars, aircraft, missile firing units) at the slightest hint of crisis in order to prevent a strategic surprise attack with hundreds of missiles on these targets. 100 Typhoons are worth little if 80 get knocked out in their hardened shelters by direct cruise missile hits in the first hour of the conflict. This redeployment needs to become so common and routine that nobody would hesitate to do it - which means that the personnel of these units would much of the year live in the field or on other airfields and even civilian airports.
  • It's cost-inefficient and in a hot conflict fairly slow to lean heavily on highly sophisticated strike packages of the American model. Likewise, it's very risky to lean heavily on stealth. The relatively brute force and modest ambition of missile saturation attacks could on the other hand deliver powerful blows at highly useful ranges against stationary and semi-stationary targets.
  • Land strike against mobile targets is hardly efficient in the frame of long-range interdiction. Engagements within 100 km of powerful friendly land forces on the other hand could and should reach peak efficiency by reducing air power to the eye in the sky, with long-range artillery delivering the fires. This rests on the assumption that radio communications could be maintained at useful distances (or to satellites), of course. Air/ground missions  would hardly be less dependent on useful radio communication ranges anyway.
  • Ship strike from the air is a relevant topic, and a much cheaper alternative to naval power, especially naval air power. This requires highly capable anti-radar and anti-ship missiles in the inventory, and sufficient training (simulator and real) of suitable attack patterns. Both missile types could have a dual capability (also precision strike against radars / structures on land).
  • Small countries should not operate their own air force, but rather contribute personnel (and some funds) to common air components.
  • Said common air components could include quick change transport/tanker aircraft, AEW aircraft (preferably quick ones), electronic warfare aircraft (same), training aircraft (similar to NFTC).
Land power
  • Small NATO / EU members should focus on having one good brigade or several good brigades, not trying to create a full spectrum miniature army with assets that typically belong to divisional or higher echelons (army aviation, long range artillery, higher HQs, area air defences etc.) or elaborate training establishments.  They should also abstain from raising or maintaining any "elite" units, such as paras, special forces et cetera that would only dilute the personnel foundation of the brigades.
  • The larger NATO / EU members (Germany, France, UK, Italy, Poland) should imbalance their land forces in favour of such above-brigade assets in order to balance out the total alliance military power that could and would be brought to bear in the first weeks of a hot conflict.
  • A NATO land warfare exercise establishment capable of handling four army brigades should be established in Southwestern Poland, and should at all times house 3-4 army brigades. These would double as kind of forward-deployed forces.
  • Armour, artillery and anti-tank defence need to gain in importance regarding resource allocation again. You cannot face Russian forces with brigades that have hardly any indirect fires capability. 1980's anti-tank munitions are still usable against BMP/BTR/BMD, as HE fire support and for demolitions, but pointless against the MBTs an aggressor would use.
  • Land forces that cannot be deployed quickly are of little relevance. Quick deployment means arrival at 80% of nominal strength with three combat days worth of supplies, 1,000 km and two pontoon bridges away from garrison within 48 hours of the first warning order. This does NOT require a 8x8 APC-based "medium" brigade, or any other of the "medium" nonsense that was cooked up in the last two decades. It DOES require that 80% of nominal strength can be deployed by road  and arrive in operational condition. This is perfectly possible with tracked vehicles of any relevant size, if only there are enough tank transporter semi-trailer combos. It is also possible with MBTs arriving later, if only 80% of the nominal strength arrives on its own wheels in time. It may also require a personnel surplus in the units, or else the personnel side could make the 80% threshold unachievable.
  • Long-neglected army branches such as air defence need more emphasis, and relevant quantities of hardware. "EOD", military intelligence, HQs above brigade level, "marines" and medical services may shrink (though the exact advisable corrections differ between countries). "Special forces" could and should be disbanded though I exclude long range recon patrol / long range scout / Fernspäher from this; I simply don't think they should be "special" at all.
  • The logistical and planning sides of a rapid establishment of sufficient strength in NE Poland and Lithuania need to be fit for the rapid deployment of forces. This includes ensured passage over natural obstacles such as rivers and non-reliance on fragile means of transportation such as rail (even diesel-powered locomotives depend on easily-sabotaged signals systems and of course easily-sabotaged rails) for any time-critical transportation. Nor must we be dependent on supremely expensive airlift, or on sealift over the Baltic Sea. Enough alternative road routes need be available between Poland and Lithuania.
In general, part two
  • Europeans can easily spend a third less on military affairs in 2020-2025,  and still have more deterrence and relative military power than in the status quo. It's about efficiency, and not wasting resources on items that are irrelevant to deterrence and actual defence. It's entirely NOT about spending more, or spending some arbitrary percentage of economic output. That nonsense is merely getting pushed by special interests and people who are ignorant of or disregarding the fact that in reality Europe is a military powerhouse, including compared to Russia.
  • I recommend that countries with very low per capita economic output or very high public debt limit their military expenditures. Greece, Belgium, Albania, Bulgaria and also Romania easily fall into either of these categories. A great benefit of being allied is that you need to spend less to provide for deterrence and defence since the efforts add up better than the requirements. The pervert idea that a country needs to spend more to justify its place in an alliance is merely pushed by those cynics who want small countries to serve as auxiliary troops pools for great power games. They don't have security in mind, but playing games with the lives and fortune of people they don't care about.



edit: This wasn't meant to be published yet; I meant to keep it as a draft for a while and keep working on it. Well, now it's out, so I keep it as is.


  1. There is Biblical saying "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". In contemporary Europe we got it other way around. There are plenty od financial and material resources out there, but political will to mobilize for defense is rotten. France will be probably out of defense of NATO Eastern flank effective May 2017, for example. Fillon wants to appease Moscow "so he can fight islamists". And generally speaking, all those nationalists rising to power right now (Grillo etc.) are "souverainists", even Putins sympathisers. There will be no general consensus concerning European defense. Everything should be at first arranged bilaterally (mainly between Germany and Poland) with those willing to contribute. - Unfortunately, ex-president of European Parliament Martin Schulz returning home only to find much narrow-minded national politics there is powerful parable of our future.

    1. Actually, I consider Schulz as grossly unfit for the office of chancellor. He's too much a European unification ideologue to represent Germany's interests.

      He might be fine for a job as minister other than foreign affairs, but one of those two jobs are exactly the ones he's supposed to get.

      Concerning European policy and politics and Putin; keep in mind there's a switch labelled "they attacked us!". Nobody who ever flipped it liked the outcome.
      Peacetime and wartime mindsets are completely different.

  2. I`m not much of a Schulzs fan, in German politics. He "fits" on eurolevel. - But we badly need this level and people like him, personally determined they don`t want to war with his cousins in Netherlands again, no way. - With all these rising Le Pens, Wilderses, Farages, Petrys, Grillos, Kaczynskis etc., there is even growing risk of inter-European conflict in a few years.

    1. ...and someone like Schulz would be a boatload of gasoline poured into the AfD fire.

    2. Dozen years ago I watched some really decent conservative Bavarians going absolutely angry about "European Constitution"; their only hope then was that in the end, French referendum would kill this illegitimate initiative. In that moment I realised something is going really wrong with this EU. - Nevertheless, there are still tribal issues in Europe. At first, end of EU would be probably also end of Belgium. Italy can dissintegrate, leaving its "costly" South alone. Some nationalist Poles with francophone culture considering Czechs "germanised Slavs" aren`t big problem, we mostly settled problems of the past, but nationalist Hungarians considering Slovaks as their subjects till this days really are, as are anti-German Czechs, president Zeman included. Some Bulgarians want to annex Macedonia/FYROM, Croatian agressive nationalism was tamed by EU, etc. Then there are those Greeks who even want to reconquer Istanbul... Sheer madness. There is much need of radical reform in the EU, but simply to kill that project would be big mistake.

  3. You wrote about "war mentality" several days ago. I really hope this report will start no "war mentality" at all, but survival instinct of German democracy. This is certainly kind of "hybrid" war act. - Maybe our imagination is in fact under "reflexive control", if we constantly experiment with Baltics scenario, which is just "conventional" threat. Maybe its pretty real threat in the end, but first they`ll try to knock out Germany from the Western equation by intelligence and political warfare.

    Your country is now last main intact democracy standing in NATO (besides Canada, I hope, but we live in Europe...)


    1. I don't care about the opinion of that federal agency (BfV). They're incompetents. I have a very low opinion of their director.

      I'd read a report (well, its summary) of the BSI on the issue. That's the federal agency for IT security.

      Besides, the Americans with their election of Trump did more than Russia could ever do to disrupt NATO. That's assuming that Russia didn't 'elect' Trump, of course (and that's a conspiracy theory with no noteworthy supporting evidence).

  4. Small NATO / EU members should focus on having one good brigade or several good brigades , not trying to create a full spectrum miniature army with assets that typically belong to divisional or higher echelons (army aviation, long range artillery, higher HQs, area air defences etc.) or elaborate training establishments...

    It is very naive. No, if the Baltic States will change the policy of discrimination on ethnic cleansing, the invasion is imminent. If in the Baltic States is not ethnic cleansing, that can be found there, except canned fish? The Baltic states, Putin now virtually ruin.

    About military aspects. Latvia has a population of 2 million people. This 200,000 wartime army. 3% in the peacetime Army (they say, the country feels threatened) - 60 000 soldiers. Or, a full army corps.

    Why "defenseless Latvia" no army of 60 000 soldiers, I can also explain :).

    1. Just stating the obvious:
      There's no ethnic cleansing happening in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. I suppose some sick Russian propaganda or Russian jingoists may fantasize about such a thing, but it doesn't happen.
      In fact, the majority-minority relations are complex in all three Baltic countries.

      @Rostislav; your comment looks like auto translated. It's barely readable.