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NATO is moving to provide more troops to fight the Russian threat



NATO is moving towards providing more troops to fight the Russian threat – WSJ











































































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The 1st Battalion of the British Royal Welsh Regiment, which participated in winter exercises last month Tapa, Estonia.
Joe Giddens / PA Wire / Getty Images

US heads are pushing for European allies to bring many more troops to potential trouble spots within 30 days


The 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Regiment of the United Kingdom took part in winter exercises near Tapa, Estonia last month.
Joe Giddens / PA Wire / Getty Images

BRUSSELS – If Europe came into conflict with Russia, only a few thousand of the more than one million soldiers in its armies would be ready for a quick deployment, feared military planners.

The US now wants to increase readiness and ensure that at least 30,000 troops, plus additional aircraft and naval ships, can reach a state of emergency within 30 days after NATO commanders have alerted the armed forces, say current and former Allied officials.

The tensions between Russia and the West are as high as they have been for years. This week, NATO joined the United States, Canada and a dozen European countries in the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War, a coordinated protest against a nervous agent attack on a former Russian spy in the UK. Washington and its allies have also imposed sanctions on Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine and alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Poland

Total: 52

Ready: 0

Germany

Total: 51

Ready: 3 [19659020] Spain

Total: 47

Ready: 0

France

Total: 39

Ready: 3

Norway

Total: 12 [19659018] Ready: 0

Netherlands

Total: 10

Ready: 0

Denmark

Total: 8

Ready: 0

Number of battalions * by country

1 battalion

=

Combat readiness within 10 days †

Combat readiness within 30 days

Italy

Total: 59

Done: 5

UK

Total: 56

Ready: 3

Poland

Total: 52

Ready: 0

Germany [1 9659043] Total: 51

Ready: 3

Spain

Total: 47 [19659044] Ready: 0

France

Total: 39

Ready: 3

Norway

Total: 12

Ready: 0

Netherlands

Total: 10

Ready: 0

Denmark

Total: 8

Ready: 0

Number of battalions * by country

1 Battalion

=

Combat readiness within 30 days

Combat readiness within 10 days †

Italy

Total: 59

Ready: 5

UK

Total : 56

Ready: 3

Poland

Total: 52

Ready: 0

Germany

Total: 51

Ready: 3

Spain

Total: 47

Ready: 0

France

Total: 39

Ready: 3

Norway

Total: 12

Ready: 0

Netherlands

Total: 10 [1 9659074] Ready: 0

Denmark [1 9659076] Total: 8

Ready: 0

Number of battalions * by country

Combat preparedness

within

30 days

10 days † [19659103] Total

Italy [19659109] 5

0

59

3

0

56

UK

0

0

52

Poland

3

Germany

51

0

0

47

Spain

0

3

39

0

France [19659105] Norway

12 [196591100

0

0

10

Netherlands

0

0

Denmark

8

0

Russia denies any role in nerve agent attack or voting. The Kremlin has marked the movements as a concerted campaign against the country as it reclaims its place among the great powers of the world, and has vowed to respond with vigor.

Increasing Allied readiness to face renewed threats from Russian is a priority for US Secretary of Defense

Jim Mattis.

He told the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that it needed to accelerate decision-making, improve its ability to mobilize troops, and ensure that units are readily operational, Alliance officials said.

NATO officials debate the problem. Officials say the US attitude is generally accepted and the allies hope to reach an agreement before a summit in July. A US proposal would oblige the Alliance to have 30 battalions, 30 fighter squadrons and 30 naval vessels ready for use. That would lead to about 30,000 soldiers and more than 360 fighter aircraft.

During the Cold War, American plans to bring 10 US divisions – about 200,000 troops – to Europe in 10 days. Instead, the new proposal focuses on the mobilization capabilities of European allies with a less ambitious target of 30 days.

"The idea is to develop a preparedness mentality to identify forces where readiness needs to be increased, but to spread these out of the nations," said

Hans Binnendijk,

a former clinton administration official and co-author of a report on NATO's ability to react

Asked about the Alliance's swift readiness for action last year, NATO deployed 4,600 troops in Poland and the Baltic states near the Russian border. NATO also has a spearhead of the 5,000-strong force, which will serve as a quick response team to help these troops within 10 days.

These forces need support from the 30 finished battalions

Alexander Vershbow,

a former deputy NATO Secretary-General because they are deployed not to fight long, but only to trigger the deployment of more troops, aircraft and ships.

"Reinforcements are still the indispensable element," Vershbow said. "And it's clear that NATO's ability to reinforce is much lower than it needs to be."

Even the proposed NATO Rapid Reaction Enhancements are not geared towards winning a large-scale conventional invasion of Russia. Instead, they should be deployed if Moscow attempts a creeping annexation of the territory of a NATO ally. The Nightmare Scenario for the Alliance: Such an incident occurs when the US has brought its operational forces, such as Fort Bragg's 82nd US Airborne Division, into a crisis in Asia.

The build-up of NATO preparedness troops would begin more teeth in the Alliance's recent deterrent efforts. The Allied front troops would slow down the entry of Russian forces, and the rapid and sustained strengthening of these forces by aircraft, ships and troops would confront Moscow with a decision: withdrawal or conventional warfare at high cost.

The pressure on this development goes back to a long decline in European military budgets for decades after the Cold War, to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. During these years, many army units were inadequately equipped and insufficiently trained. Until the Crimea, NATO has also urged many countries to hand over their tank formations and invest more in light infantry forces that are suitable for training missions in Afghanistan.

NATO is now calling on Allied governments to once again invest in armed forces for the collective defense of Europe against Russia, but building these forces will cost time and money.

The Trump government has made increasing European military spending the main goal. As countries seek to raise spending to the NATO target of 2% of GDP, they should focus on improving the Allies' readiness, according to Vershbow.

The new initiative includes ships and aircraft as well as ground forces. NATO officials believe that improving Alliance cooperation as a combined force that combines land, air and marine resources is crucial to preventing any military movement in Russia.

Defense experts say enough fighter aircraft are crucial for NATO's acceleration response. Ready aircraft are not just about allies investing in more training and maintenance of their battle fleet; This includes the construction of airfields and other infrastructure.

The Alliance is also working with the European Union to improve military mobility so that troops, tanks, artillery and other equipment can run faster on European roads, bridges and railways. On Wednesday, EU officials launched an initiative to improve critical military transport routes, for example by strengthening bridges to withstand the weight of battle tanks.

The assessment of how many combat units of a nation can move quickly is closely guarded by all the armed forces. In addition to the spearhead headed by Italy this year, NATO announces two brigades each year – troops of about 3,500 troops each – serving in the NATO response forces. This year the troop has a British unit and a multinational brigade led by Germany.

But current and former Allied officials said there was hardly a European ally without a readiness problem. Although Greece and Turkey have large armies, they are not trained to be sent to a hot spot in their region.

Smaller Western European military forces, such as Belgium and Romania, have cut their land forces and re-enforced NATO demands for brigades that could contribute to a light force. But the question remains whether the defense budgets will rise to the point where they can finance new formations.

NATO's larger and more reliable allies also have problems. France's well-trained and equipped forces were overwhelmed by operations in Africa. On paper, Germany has to pull the heavy tank and artillery forces into a fight, but German government guards have said that the army lacks the necessary equipment. And while an influential report from RAND last year said that the British army could quickly shift heavy forces to combat, she found that the British army was shrinking. Land spending was under pressure as Britain put two aircraft carriers into service.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com

Published in the printed edition of March 29, 2018 as "NATO suspenders for the Russian threat".

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