I revised some of my strategic assumptions and conclusions


It's about time to revisit key assumptions & conclusions of mine that I used since about 2009 at the latest.

I assumed that Germany's contribution to NATO and EU defence should be driven by its geographic position:

  • not a frontier country itself
  • not directly threatened itself
  • close enough to the frontier for airbases that allow tactical aircraft to fly sorties on the Eastern frontier without refuelling
  • close enough to the frontier to deploy road-mobile troops to the Eastern frontier within mere days
NATO in Europe (in dark blue), (c) "Starfire25"

My conclusions were:

  • The army should orient itself towards very high readiness and the ability to deploy into combat over 1,000 km road within few days. Most allies could not reinforce Poland or Lithuania as quickly as us.
  • The army would not need to remain in action for longer than four weeks, as allied troops would relieve German army forces, which could then be pulled away from combat for refit
  • It's much more important to provide airbases in Eastern Germany than to add a couple tactical aircraft to active service in an alliance that has 2,000+ tactical combat aircraft in active service

Furthermore, I believed that there's about 5% probability of Russia attacking NATO within 20 years. The only "promising" scenario for that would be a strategic surprise attack based on a belief that there would be no nuclear war.

My reasoning was that Russia was the only justification for substantially more military spending than a mere scheme to retain military-specific competencies that could not be reacquired within about two years. We could safely reduce military spending to a small fraction without the Russian threat.

Now for the reality check:

Russia didn't execute a strategic surprise attack against Ukraine. Even the public knew about invasion preparations for months. NATO would have had time to counter-concentrate if it had een the target of the attack.

Russia expended the missiles it would have had to use in a strategic surprise attack on NATO, and it did so piecemeal.*

Russian logistics and doctrine were incapable of rapid and deep incursions in Ukraine. This means it's not all that decisive that Allies arrive in NE Poland and Lithuania within a few days. The same applies to intervention by tactical air power.

Russian non-state but state-steered propagandists expanded the acceptable discourse towards fantasies of killing everyone in NATO except a certain American fascist on TV.

Poland is building a huge (likely Potemkin villages) army with lots of  prestigious and very visible army systems purchases (especially tanks, SPGs, MRLs).

The Polish government (more accurately; the PiS party) is pissing me off with its Germanophobia and adversarial stance towards Germany and its abuse of Germany as a bogeyman to gain votes. Thus I lost interest in orienting the German military to specific Polish defence needs. As of now they can thank us for us not leaving NATO and leaving them with largely cut lines of communications to their Western allies.

The Russian armed forces embarrassed themselves in Ukraine, exposing that they are crippled by combining all known defects of Russian armed forces known from the past 200 years in one moment of time. To work out of this malaise with military reforms seems impossible for the kleptocrat regime. IMO only some of the problems will be solved or alleviated before 2040.

The economic situation of Russia and the fiscal situation of the Russian state have worsened badly due to sanctions, and even lifting many sanctions won't change that Russia will have much less exports in the 2030's, as their export goods are getting substituted. Russia won't be able to afford a rebuilding, much less sustain an enlargement, of its armed forces. The probability of war with NATO has dropped well below 5% over the next 20 years.

Ukrainians proved that at least select troops (with previous basic military training and good performance in primary education) can acquire enough competence with equipment and tactics within months.

Even the German peacetime training course has less than 90 workdays.

Adjustments to the conclusions:

I believe it's fine if the Polish want to go crazy on the army regardless of their small economy. Let them play army powerhouse at their own expense, it's their wealth that gets wasted. To elect shitty politicians has consequences, everywhere. We suffer our consequences, they suffer theirs.

We're close to the Eastern frontier, but I don't care nearly as much about high readiness any more. I believe my conclusions of 2009-2021 regarding high readiness are still easily in the realm of acceptable ambitions, but now I deviate from them. I had been indoctrinated with a cost efficiency mantra during years of university studies, and sticking to conclusions from old assumptions leads to wasteful actions. 

My ambition for Germany is now rather one army division in Eastern Poland within a week than one corps within a few days. The actual, real-world German army readiness is instead up to one brigade there in days (starts moving within 2...7 days).

A second wave should include another division equivalent of reserve formations, none of which should doctrinally be meant for very demanding manoeuvre warfare.

I stick to my opinion that adding and improving airbases matters more for alliance deterrence and defence than to buy sexy toys for Luftwaffe generals who don't want to be real estate administrators.

Munitions should be stocked for 30 days (NATO expectations, but ordinarily I don't care about what NATO wants) as an interim step, with ambition to reach 90 days worth of munition stocks. This is mostly about the need for indirect fires consumables (155 mm HE and IR-SMK shells, multifunction fuses and 4...5 propellant modules per shell).

We can go for a smaller active army than I believed; a smaller active army than we have.


We should turn away from the "standing army" paradigm that neglects the reserves

towards an emphasis on army power two weeks after mobilisation (V-Fall). This allows for much more army power two weeks after mobilisation with a smaller budget. It still permits to send a proper but small division (two brigades or three small brigades, few divisional troops) within a week (with consumables and 90% personnel and vehicle/major weapon system readiness for action).

I shall adjust my blogging accordingly.



*: The use of dedicated launcher vehicles instead of having one launcher per missile lends itself very poorly to a massive surprise attack with missiles anyway. A Russian arms company proposed a containerised missile launcher, but that didn't go beyond CGI. A rearmament with enough launchers for mass launches would put the strategic surprise attack against air forces in Europe back on the table.

P.S.: There are also a couple adjustments to my opinions regarding supply logistics, Russian countermeasures and air defence, but I separate them into later blog posts.

It's good practice in administrations and business administration to revise strategies every about five years. I am revising old opinions after about a decade based on much new information. I don't feel ashamed about the need to change my views.



  1. We are building up our economic connections with Asia via the Silk Road, and the Belt and Road initiative, and possible future connections with India. All such conduits for trade also provide routes for logistics in conflict. For this reason, I doubt that next time Russia will act on her own, but rather as part of a larger conflict that includes China and Taiwan, Southeast Asia and Australia, North and South Korea, India and Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the next world war in essence.
    While our air power is probably superior, is there a chance for an infantry revolution that gives the advantage to numerous infantry, which we lack by comparison?

    1. "All such conduits for trade also provide routes for logistics in conflict."

      How many trains use this route, how many divisions could be supplied via this route? How many critical choke points does the system have which are in reach of NATO forces?

    2. It's out of reach for most NATO weapons, especially if conducting countries stay officially neutral. China is great at building infrastructure and expanding these trade connections.

  2. There's a push for conscription of men and women by the German defence minister Pistorius and the prominent parliamentarian on defence, Strack-Zimmermann, while pointing out that such a move is impossible within the framework of the 2+4 treaty. Is it possible that German military weakness is a protest to end the 2+4 treaty? Would this be possible due to Russian aggression?

    1. The 2+4 treaty did not ban conscription. We still have conscription, just don't call up anyone. We forced young men into labour with conscription until 2011.

    2. Conscription is an awful tool and time spent in it should be kept to the minimum to train for times of trouble and not as cheap labour exploitation. Point is, with 700,000 young men and women each year, a conscription based army would be highly unfair by calling up just a fraction or it exceeds the 2+4 treaty limits on the Germany military. This was already with such low numbers that a conscription based army was almost impossible back than, except with lots of people doing no or other services.
      An alternative to conscription would be a militia with high wartime strength, but unlike conscription, such a volunteer structure would be more expensive in terms of tax money spent.
      Conscription might be less bad from an economic point of view if the military time includes lots of training with AI applications.

    3. Explanation: The 2+4 treaty limits German armed forces to 370,000.
      This can be cheated to some degree by conscription into Bundespolizei (former Bundesgrenzschutz, easily enough for equivalent of Swiss 4 month militia basic training, as it used to be a real paramilitary organisation meant to turn into light infantry in wartime) and by outsourcing to civilian providers.
      Maximum 345k troops in army and air force combined.

      There are 800k 18-year-olds
      Subtracting unfit and foreigners that would be probably 200k males and 150k females. No conscription for females, but that would very much be up for debate if obligatory basic service gets reactivated. More than half of males would refuse military service, so there would be a lot of cheap labour exploited by elderly care institutions and the like.

      I saw conscripts being used dismally in the air force of the 1990's, before the situation deteriorated further until 2010. Obligatory basic service is an utter waste of time and resources as long as the military bureaucracy does not understand that 100% of its mission is about wartime strength.
      I saw conscripts misused as sauna boys, 6 conscripts serving one diesel pump at a refuelling station, conscripts doing daily inventory check in munition depot, conscripts being exploited as cheap labour in kitchens and as waiters in casinos.

    4. Germany should introduce at least one (if not two) years of mandatory military service for all able-bodied men, consisting of intense training on modern weapons and tactics, with no waste of time as a cheap laborer, followed by at least an other five years (if not seven) in active reserve service containing a yearly quota of days of refresher training and participation in military exercises.

      Refusing should be made very hard (like in South Korea) or even illegal.

      If the number of people so conscripted happens to exceed the 2+4 treaty-limit, the overhang conscripts will be put in some "national guard" type organization, so they are not in the military on paper but in practice they would do exactly the same things and receive the same training as the other conscripts and would be considered part of the military in the inner circles (Schwarze Reichswehr-Style).

      Also under the cover of civil fusion research we should pursue the development of "Pure-Fusion" Type nuclear weapons.

  3. If the polish government doesn't switch in the next election, we should consider the value of the german army as deterrent of polish agression. They are rearming strongly, they think we owe them some 40% of our GDP as reparations, they have been spewing aggressive anti-german rethoric for a while and their democracy is becoming ever more dubious.

    1. If Poland becomes a danger, depends on developments in the US. If there's a split between the Franco-German continental alliance and the transatlantic Anglo-Saxon alliance, then Poland is likely to opt against their paymasters in Europe. This would make frontlines in the upcoming larger confrontation with China and Russia unnecessary complicated.

    2. I do not think anyone would want to open another front while engaged against china/russia. Least of all poland, but not america either. (Btw. if france keeps the alliance with germany, there's nukes in the game and they won't do anything either). I rather consider the scenario somewhat possible (if unlikely) that russia implodes, america elects a fascist, the EU has internal conflict (not necessarily all at the same time) and amidst the chaos the increasingly dictatorial polish government decides to force the reparation issue with their now large but unoccupied military, expecting noone to come to our aid.

    3. Simple solution.

      Just stop all EU-subsidies for Poland and move subsidiaries of German companies back home and they won't be able to afford their armament program.

  4. If I were German I would think about why we always make the wrong strategic decisions. Just since the turn of the century:
    1.Green politics. How, for the sake of brief electoral advantages, a right-wing party, at least in words, decides to ruin its economy, as well as that of its partners.
    2. Russian gas as a main energy source or how a corrupt prime-minister lied Europe.
    3. The migrant crisis. Eastern Europe suffered the consequences of Merkel's illusions.
    4. The Russians will not attack because we trade with them. A brilliant strategic blunder. At least you had read your own story. The same nonsense was said before the First World War.
    I don't want to make national insults. I am reminding the above because Germany is wrong again, but because of your stupidity and delusions others are now suffering. That is why what is written in this article seems very frivolous and thoughtless.

    1. Germany didn't always make the wrong decision during this timeframe and they reaped economic benefits from their decisions. As part of world war 2 consequences, Germany explicitly had no institution that thought about grand strategy, but they just tagged along and made sure to make money. A grander strategic vision is currently being introduced.

    2. The german economy is still fine last I checked. Russian gas was replaced within a year. Not a single MENA immigrant remained in eastern europe. And Russia did not attack us, it attacked ukraine (and whether it would have refrained from that if we weren't trading with them is wild speculation). Not only are you lying about how bad our decisions were, you lie even harder about suffering yourself from them, which you don't. (May I remind you that eastern europe imported russian gas at even higher percentages than germany?)

      Ever more I am beginning to think the real error we made in the past decades was allowing germany-haters into the EU, feeding them money (that they promptly decided they not only deserved, but was also too little to make up for... being allowed to invest like they wanted us to), allowing them influence on our politics via the EU. We should have kept them at arms length and ensured tighter cooperation with our true friends or at least partners in western europe. And as a bonus, people like you couldn't just blame germany, they would have to blame all western europe.

  5. If you want other points of view, you get them. You don't have to like them.
    Your vision of the German army is quite elementary. Light infantry, militia... As if only German territory was important. Everything else can be left to the Russians? Well, find the new Molotov and Ribbentrop to understand each other again.
    Germany developed economically in the last 70 years because it had NATO to protect it. But Germany does not want to return this service to Eastern Europe.

    1. "Germany developed economically in the last 70 years because it had NATO to protect it."

      How do you come up with this obviously wrong nonsense?

    2. What were half a million Americans, Britons, Canadians.... doing in Germany for 50 years?
      Let's also remember the American finances given to restore Germany!
      Now Germany is behaving like a complete egoist. Are Eastern Europeans ungrateful?
      Instead of protecting freedom in Europe, Germany does business with Putin. A downright inspiring example of solidarity - irony of course.

    3. Italy, France and the UK received more marshal-aid than West-Germany, the latter two actually more than twice as much, despite all of them having a lower population so per capita they received even more.
      Stil that does have nothing to do with NATO.
      And nowadays German companies founded subsidiaries in Eastern Europe generating tax revenue for these states + billions in EU subsidies mostly paid for by Germany and mostly received by eastern Europe allowing them to buy their shiny, new Abrams tanks.

    4. WEST Germany protected NATO with 12 of 26 divisions standing guard in Central Europe + border guards + providing essential support with its territorial forces reserves + it paid much for the British and American troops being on German soil, paying for their buildings, too.
      1/5th of Germans (East Germans) were not protected by NATO at all.
      Meanwhile, NATO nuclear powers prepared to bomb Germany with hundreds if not thousands of nukes.
      Meanwhile, the Austrians were safe without NATO, just minding their own business with an army, no navy and practically no air force.

      West Germany developed well because of the competence and hard work of West Germans despite it transferring more to its Western occupiers than it ever received in Marshall Fund money.
      East Germany became the wealthiest Warsaw Pact country becuase of the competence and hard work of East Germans despite the Soviet effort to leech East Germany.

      The path to prosperity is the path of industrial prowess and decent allocation of resources.

      All that military might of the U.S. matters jack shit to Ukrainians now. All that matters is what military aid is being provided. That's a fraction of American mil spending and Germany could give much more air to Ukraine now than all of NATO actually gives if the German military had been reformed the way that I proposed in published writing a decade ago.

    5. Thanks Sven.
      I (I am the Anon that wrote the first and third reply to the post) already thought about mentioning the fact that the Bundeswehr was the strongest land force in Europe in the 1980s, but I wasn't sure of the exact numbers.
      The downsizing/decline only began in the 90s when the threat was over.
      The 2+4-Treaty, which the original poster probably doesn't know about, probably also deserves a significant amount of blame for that.
      He probably holds the (completely false) assumption that West-Germany was like Japan in that regard during the Cold War.
      Obviously he is a victim of (typically anti-german and pro-polish) neocon Propaganda that doesn't have much to do with reality.

    6. "Germany developed economically in the last 70 years because it had NATO to protect it. But Germany does not want to return this service to Eastern Europe."

      Obviously, you suffer from an educational Fulda gap.

    7. I meant to write "much more aid" instead of "more air".

  6. "Germany should introduce at least one (if not two) years of mandatory military service for all able-bodied men, consisting of intense training on modern weapons and tactics, with no waste of time as a cheap laborer, followed by at least an other five years (if not seven) in active reserve service containing a yearly quota of days of refresher training and participation in military exercises."

    You obviously did not understand the problem. Get relevant numbers, then come back. Your personal opinion is no substitute for homework in a serious discussion.

    1. Here are some numbers for you:
      Roughly one million men are defending Ukraine right now.
      And you think a puny 200.000 Bundeswehr will be sufficient?
      If there ever is a "V-Fall" conscription will be enacted anyway, so it would be better for the potential conscripts if they received some thorough training BEFORE it comes to that.
      Yes manpower is not everything but it is very important still.
      The best equipped force in the world won't do much against a serious foreign invasion if it was just made up of 100.000 men.
      And it is not just Russia I am talking about.
      A closer, more immediate threat from the east becomes more and more apparent, by its hostile actions.
      The most recent of which is blocking the Oil deliveries for the Schwedt refinery.

      PS: I really don't appreciate the smugness of telling me I am supposedly wrong without even mentioning what you think I am wrong about.

    2. Conscription costs lost tax revenue in addition to expenditure. Most soldiers don't fight with modern weapons in the frontlines.

    3. "Roughly one million men are defending Ukraine right now.
      And you think a puny 200.000 Bundeswehr will be sufficient?"

      Germany is part of two organisations with military component: NATO + EU
      Your numbers are stupid and not relevant.

    4. That and German mobilised strength isn't the same as wartime strength as of now + Ukrainian military personnel in autumn 2021 wasn't the same as now.

      Fact is that European NATO badly outnumbers even the mobilised Russian armed forces strength (including Rosgvardia) as of now, despite Russian mobilisation. We don't even need Americans and Canadians to outnumber Russians+Belarussians.

      The picture didn't change much between this blog post
      and early 2021, and even now they have less than 1.5M.

      That's part of why I wrote the blog post. People who don't think much about military affairs (and this includes a lot of supposed military experts and professionals) think that the recent events call for more spending, more military power on part of NATO. That's the opposite of the rational conclusion. The events show that we need a LOT less military power for security than was a reasonable assumption before March 2022.

      Budgeting for military power should be based on a calm cost/benefit consideration, not on power fantasies, special interests or fanboyism. Our € 100 bn budget boost was extremely primitive and stupid. We need higher efficiency, not sustained bigger budgets. The German military budget is actually ridiculously large given the security environment.

    5. Your are basing your argument on the assumption that these organizations will persist and be reliable forever, which is highly questionable.
      If they don't there is no basis for your argument.
      Also no matter how big your forces are there will be losses.
      Conscription ensures you will have enough reserves to replace them.

    6. Ukraine had a million reservists before the war.
      The Bundeswehr has maybe 50k at most.
      A ridiculously low number, by far not enough to replace any serious losses suffered.

    7. "Your are basing your argument on the assumption that these organizations will persist and be reliable forever"
      No. https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2014/02/how-nato-changed-perception-of-what.html

      The reservist count of the Bundeswehr (incl. air foce and navy) was in excess of 100k a few years ago, and that's only the personnel planned for specific jobs in case of mobilisation.
      We still have hundreds of thousands of trained conscripts (10 months basic service or more) in military age.

      Experience shows that going a major war alone is pointless in the centre of Europe, so we need to keep some meaningful alliance, at minimum with one at least seemingly trustworthy nuclear power.

  7. "Italy, France and the UK received more marshal-aid than West-Germany,"
    Yes, but the UK had to return huge debts to the USA! Also, especially for Germany, these figures do not include the massive humanitarian and other aid in 1945-46! Economic aid to Eastern Europe is highly controversial. Much of the money actually fuels corruption. On the other hand, Germany benefits the most from the eastern economy. A lot of labor, especially skilled. A secured market and EU customs barriers. Long topic, and the blog is about the army!

    1. Germany was paying for its occupation and having much of its industry disassembled in 1945/1946 and the occupiers imposed strangling price controls till 1948/1949 and German intellectual properties were wiped out in 1945.

  8. The blog is debating what the German army should be. Actually, I don't live in Germany and I don't care. Everyone in the East knows that they cannot count on military protection from Germany. The allusions to Poland are pretty disgusting. You invent a problem where there is none, but ignore the obvious!

    1. Now you only need to add a bit substance to the comment, such as showing WHAT I supposedly ignored.

  9. I am always very confused when ppl like some of the commentors here, bring up conscription as a cheaper way to build an army capable of standing up to russia. Conscription is not cheap. It is extremely expensive. We just dont pay in euros, but in years of our lives. A year spend in mandatory military service is a year that young ppl contribute nothing to the economy, dont pay taxes, dont get and education and dont save for the future. Just a few years ago we cut High-school short by a year just to get the population into the economy quicker. Germany is a very high productivity nation, it is far more efficient for us to spend money on defence then time. But i do think we could make better use of our money: In my opinion a german brigade stationed in Lithuania and integrated into a Lithuanian division would be worth more for our defence than 2 or 3 brigades stationed in Germany.

    1. That's about oportunity costs.
      There's the additional costs to the people, forced labour does not systematically attract the most-inclined personnel, while a market-based voluntary labour contract comes somewhat clsoe to it.
      The nonfiscal costs of conscription are indeed severe.

      It would be nice to have a law that everyone who publicly proposes a mandatory service of any kind and didn't do it yet himself/herself shall be forced to do it himself/herself.
      Force those 60+ years old pro-conscription people to wear uniforms for a year, clean guns, do 10 km marches, eat canteen food (usually shit quality) Monday-Friday for a year, sit around, get shouted at, have limited freedom of speech and waste lifetime!

      Afterwards they can talk shit all day long about how good an idea that was if they still think so.

    2. The food in the Luftwaffe wasn't bad, but our labour was misused and mismanaged.
      Point is that the current intervention force seems too small to be the backbone of European defence. A higher wartime strength seems necessary. The problem is the low attractiveness of the military as a temporary workplace in order to have a militia that increases wartime strength like in Poland. Instead of solving that problem with money and some heads rolling, conscription is launched as a solution of less resistance, because young people are too few to have much effect in politics.

    3. I don't see the total strength of European NATO focused on the threat in case of Russian agression, so without significant strength of a few core countries, Russia might calculate it possible to make quick gains and defend them. That's why Germany is a key country for European defence.

  10. I am extremely pro-conscription but it is an institution that has to be implemented carefully and correctly or done at all.

    Firstly, service length must be short (six months to one year) and then become part of their local reserve for five to ten years. Ideally, conscription should occur before it interrupts adulthood meaning the ideal age should be 17 to 18.

    Secondly, everyone regardless of race, creed, economic background, etc. must serve, no exceptions, and the penalty for objecting conscription is you lose your ability to vote until you complete your service. If one objects to serving in the military then they can go do EMS, firefighter, or police work, or something similar but one will not get out of hard work by taking an easier option such as taking care of the elderly.

    Thirdly, conscripts must be paid well, minimum wage and tax free, and at the end of their service they should receive a bonus as well (and a few thousand dollars/euros).

    Fourthly, conscripts exist to serve the military only and to participate in military affairs only. Conscripts will not be abused as free labour or other political projects.

    If you implemented a system as I have recommended above then the military would have a large reserve force of decent quality, you would have a social institution that actually exists for the betterment of society and binds people together, and the people conscripted would be highly motivated because they are paid well and the side benefit is that these people get a positive life experience as a result.

    1. A loss of voting rights is not an acceptable incentive.

      There are vastly more creative, more acceptable and less troublesome options for incentives.
      One year military service could mean two years advance towards retirement with full benefits, for example.
      One year military service could give ten years free access to national rail travel.
      One year military service could give priority access to cheap public housing and priority access to university studies with limited # of accepted students per semester.
      One year public service could give a right to have a 30 hrs/week 120% minimum wage government job instead of unemployment pay, and thus exemption from mandatory unemployment insurance fees.