Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NATO continues to pretend it matters

By Donald Sensing

Well, this sure will have Putin quaking in his boots:

WASHINGTON — As Ukrainian leaders warned on Monday of “a great war” with Russia, NATO leaders meeting in Wales this week were expected to endorse their most concrete response yet to increased Russian military intervention in Ukraine: establishing a rapid-reaction force capable of deploying quickly to Eastern Europe, officials of the alliance said.

The new force of some 4,000 troops, capable of moving on 48 hours’ notice ... .
And you can just stop reading there because:

1. Four thousand troops is not even a decent speed bump against Russia or most any other potential enemy. Of the 4,000, probably no more than 800 are trigger pullers.

2. There is nothing to back them up. NATO has no strategic "throw" apart from the US Air Force or Navy, except for (believe it or not) Canada. The Royal Air Force has a few new C-17s, but not many. That's the capability to sustain major operations an extended distance away through supply and troop reinforcements or rotations. NATO just doesn't have it.

3. That means that the RRF will actually never be deployed into combat and that this is simply a symbolic gesture.

4. "Capable of moving on 48 hours notice" is in fact not rapid. The US 82d Airborne Division with its USAF support gets a battalion in the air within 18 hours of the go order, with additional battalions following quickly.

5. Remember the "NATO Response Force?" Neither do I.

Six years ago I asked, "What has NATO done for us?" discussing the usefulness of NATO to the United States in confronting the Russian threat (Russia had just invaded Georgia) to Ukraine or Islamist terrorism. Except for the date, I wouldn't change a word. For example:
Ukraine? Not a NATO member, and Russia could easily march in. But Ukraine is hardly defensible by NATO. From the west, NATO forces would have a very long ground journey, across NATO-member Poland, then another 300 miles just to reach Ukraine's capital, Kiev. The logistics problem would be immense, especially for ammunition and spare parts.

Ukraine’s sea approach, from the Black Sea, has a natural choke point at the Bosporus straits. The sea approach to the Bosporus has its own choke points, the Dardanelles strait which empties into the Sea of Mamara, between the Aegean Sea and the Bosporus straits. Fortunately, Turkey is a NATO member whose forces have been focused for decades on keeping the sea lanes open. Of course, Russia has worked the opposite problems for decades, too. So there would almost certainly be a battle royal there between NATO and Russian air and naval forces.

Finally, Ukraine is a big country, almost 800 miles east to west, 233,000 square miles, and NATO's manpower commitment would have to be correspondingly large, probably too large for NATO's existing forces, even under mobilization, since substantial forces would need to be retained in Poland and points west to deter Russian moves in that direction.

As well, western Europe's standing forces are too few to offer substantial, long-lasting reinforcements to deployed units. Many of their regular brigades are permanently staffed by regulars at a fraction of full strength, with the rest (usually one-third or even more) of the troops being reservists whose readiness level is substantially lower. If you use your reserves to man up your regular battalions, who exactly is manning the reserves? In all, since the dissolution of the USSR, Europe's defense planning has been focused on economy rather than war readiness.
In 2009 I asked, "Is NATO approaching its end game?" to which the answer is perpetually yes. Without any clear sense of mission and purpose remaining, NATO has become a fiefdom of typical Euro-Buro nature, existing for prolonging the job security of its massively bloated staffs.

NATO is actually rather pointless and they know it.
It's telling that the French are complaining about NATO's bureaucratic inefficiency. Man, when the French complain about unwieldy bureaucracies, you know there's a problem! And here is Exhibit A:
This is NATO's new, $1.38 billion headquarters sitting on 100 acres near Brussels, under construction now. This for an organization that has essentially no purpose.
And NATO's European nations are broke, or at least unwilling to spend money on the military. In 2000, the US provided 50 percent of NATO's funding. By 2011, it was 75 percent. NATO is broke, leaderless and pointless.

As Richard Perle, an assistant defense secretary under Reagan, said about NATO, "If it didn't already exist, you couldn't start it today. It's living on its legacy."

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