The possible war with Russia and NATO mobility in Europe – a report

This post was published in EurAsia Daily. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


BRUSSELS, (BM) – In the expert community of the American “deep state”, the discussion of the problem of “NATO mobility” in Europe for a possible war with Russia continues. In essence, we are talking about the rapid concentration of US troops and their NATO allies at the borders of the Russian Federation, and especially in the Baltic states.

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This will be a military operation on the eve of a conventional war with Russia or immediately before its start. We have already given an overview of reports on the “defense” of the Baltic states and NATO’s associated mobility:

  • Jamestown Foundation – Report of the American hawk: “How do we defend the Baltic States from the Russians”
  • Former US Army Commander in Europe retired General Ben Hodges – “Work like a war”: NATO mobility report on the eastern flank and The Baltic War: Russia will not lose initiative, NATO will not budge

Now, the other day on the topic of NATO’s mobility in Europe, the Atlantic Council’s report was prepared by an expert group of the “task force” on mobility led by the former commander of the US European Command and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the NATO Armed Forces in Europe (2016 —2019) by retired General Curtis M. Scaparrotti and former US Ambassador to Hungary Colin B. Bell. The 50-page report of the Atlantic Council was called “On the Move. A comprehensive assessment of European military mobility. ”

Obviously, the publication of the report of General Hodges in March, and now in April – the report of General Scaparrotti was connected with the plan of the large NATO exercises in Europe Defender Europe 20, the active phase of which was supposed to take place in May of this year. However, because of the coronavirus, the teachings were thwarted, and large expert reports by Hodges and Scaparotti to the tone were published by inertia, which, of course, does not reduce the value of their content.

The Atlantic Military Mobility Council Task Force was created in April 2019 to assess the adequacy of military mobility efforts in Europe to support the rapid strengthening of allied forces across the continent.

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The Atlantic Council Mobility Task Force Report is a one-year study based on consultations with NATO, EU, and national governments. The report contains a number of specific recommendations on mobility.

Actually, the text of the report itself – a 50-page document was written by the project director Wayne Schroeder, project rapporteurs Clementina J. Starling and Conor Rodihan as part of the research support and in consultation with the members of the target group.

In addition, the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, which works to create “non-partisan strategies” to address the most important security challenges facing the United States, also contributed to the report.

NATO’s new front line — and the term is used in the report — is currently taking place in Poland and the Baltic states, expanding further to the South and the vital Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. The front extends to the eastern Mediterranean due to the presence of Russia in Syria and, possibly, in Egypt. Military mobility should provide this front. Unlike the reports of the Jamestown Foundation and General Hodges, the report of the Atlantic Council does not contain scenarios of a possible war with the Russian in the Baltic states. The report provides a “comprehensive assessment of European military mobility.”

The report assesses the ongoing efforts of the Allied countries, NATO and the EU in the field of military mobility in Europe; identifies gaps in existing progress; and provides practical advice on enhancing and improving mobility in the short and long term.

To support the rapid movement of military forces throughout the European continent and beyond, NATO countries and the European Union are working individually and individually to mitigate the many legal, diplomatic, and infrastructural barriers to military mobility.

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The importance of NATO-European Union cooperation for military mobility in different variations is emphasized in the text of the report. “We need more coordination between NATO and the EU,” it states.

The authors of the report “In motion. Comprehensive assessment of European military mobility” point to problems. The report lists the problems of mobility well-known in a large number of publications and other reports: legal, infrastructural, organizational, etc. Therefore, we will not dwell on these points in our review. We will only pay attention to the main political problems identified in the report.

The authors of the report point out that, firstly, today’s military mobility lacks a common sense of urgency and constancy necessary to provide a reliable resource. The protracted discussion in Brussels of the EU’s next seven-year budget 2021-2017 “potentially nullifies the financing of military mobility.”

Secondly, the lack of political and military coordination between countries and two organizations – NATO and the EU, hinders the adoption of political decisions.

The main task, from the point of view of the authors of the report, is to ensure sustainable and reliable financing of military mobility by the European Union, NATO and member countries. It is recognized that the political momentum regarding military mobility peaked in 2018, but is currently at risk of stagnation, as countries, the EU, and NATO focus on other issues. The report determines that the EU should allocate a budget of € 20 billion for the period 2021–27 to finance military mobility. Meanwhile, as stated in the report, there is a growing gap between the political statements of the EU and its resource obligations and opportunities.

Most of the EU’s military mobility efforts have been politically linked to former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. In 2019, the European Commission proposed financing military mobility of € 6.5 billion over six years.

Despite such a positive start, the EU is currently experiencing serious financial problems that have jeopardized the military mobility program. In December 2019, under the Finnish presidency of the EU, a compromise was proposed to reduce the mobility budget from € 6.5 billion to € 2.5 billion. This is more than 60% less than what was originally proposed in the original budget of the European Commission for 2021−2027 years. The proposed reduction in the EU would give Member States an opportunity to make similar reductions in their national budgets for military mobility. The Covid-19 pandemic has created additional challenges for funding.

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The report suggests focusing on investments in railway infrastructure as a priority, especially on NATO’s eastern flank. Investments in railway infrastructure are crucial for mobility from Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe. As a priority, the Nordic countries should continue to pay attention to the development and maintenance of national investments in the Rail Baltica project – a European-gauge railway line from Poland to the Baltic states.

The report published a map of nine freight rail corridors of the Trans-European Transport Network, which transported most of the military equipment and troops in Europe. And only one such route partially extends to the Baltic states. At the same time, the map shows how well prepared the defense of Western Europe is with the four lines of rocky railways.

The second task is to ensure compliance with NATO defense planning, known as the Four Thirties, to expose thirty US ground battalions, thirty air squadrons and thirty warships to the US NATO allies for the first thirty days after Day Day.

The third challenge is promoting cyber resilience. Cyber ​​resilience and survivability of the infrastructure should take a higher priority at the operational level, as they will be crucial for the movement of forces throughout Europe during times of crisis or wartime.

The fourth task is to focus on command and control during exercises. NATO should form a Joint Military Mobile Competence Center under the leadership of the Joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC) of the NATO Logistics Support Center. NATO exercises must be fully integrated with military mobility initiatives, including Defender-Europe 20 exercises. NATO plans now include an increase in the number of annual exercises with longer duration and increasing complexity. A key issue in exercise planning will be the ability of the European infrastructure to receive and transport exercise participants. NATO conducted 103 military exercises in 2018 and 102 military exercises in 2019. In 2021, large-scale exercises in Europe Steadfast Defender 2021 are planned, which will be the first opportunity for the Joint Rear Command (JSEC) to show themselves and their capabilities.

The fifth task is to expand the possibilities of strategic transportation both in terms of carrying capacity and by removing existing obstacles.

The report acknowledges that the existing infrastructure in the countries of the former Warsaw Pact is largely unsuitable for modern NATO technology.

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At the suggestion of the two Atlantic Council task forces, NATO member states should consider financing the dismantling of the Russian railway gauge in the Baltic states and replacing it with the Western European gauge, and also – note, this is a rather enchanting proposal – to ensure the change of bridges at the Baltic-Russian border so that they could not bear the weight for passing Russian heavy military equipment. The Baltic countries should determine and classify the status of the former Soviet infrastructure within their borders, and take appropriate measures to relocate or replace it.

The most interesting plot of the report is the definition of the US military potential for mobility to Europe. In this regard, the report supplements the previous expert opinions on this subject.

U.S. mobile capabilities for 2018 were as follows:

  • strategic transport aviation: 275 S-5 and S-17 aircraft;
  • civil transport and passenger aircraft: 257 cargo or passenger wide-body aircraft;
  • tactical transport aircraft: 300 S-13 vehicles;
  • Pentagon-controlled marine transport vessels: carrying capacity of 15.3 million square meters. ft (1.4 million sq. m)
  • commercial maritime transport under the agreement, including ships of the allies and partner countries: carrying capacity of 3.9 million square meters. ft (362 thousand sq. m)
  • Refueling aircraft: 479 KC-46 and KS-135 aircraft.

The report acknowledges that the U.S. Air Force is currently suffering from a reduction and aging fleet of aircraft and tankers. The report suggests that the EU create a European civilian reserve air fleet.

Meanwhile, it is recognized that NATO in Europe does not have an adequate strategy for using air transport for military mobility. Any serious review of crisis scenarios involves using airfield capacities closer to the front-line states – Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

With regard to shipping, the report indicates that key NATO countries such as Greece, Germany and Denmark already own a large part of the merchant fleet around the world. Norway has developed the concept of using its civilian navy in times of crisis and can deploy 1,800 ships within seventy-two hours of the state’s request. The United States should consider expanding its navy by Norwegian vessels in a crisis.

The report warns that NATO should prepare for the possible deployment by Russia of conventional weapons – precision short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and evaluate their impact on NATO military mobility. Many European security analysts believe that deploying conventional modern ballistic or cruise missiles can truly “change the rules of the game” for mobility in Europe.


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Original source: EurAsia Daily