The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced Europe to reconsider its military mobility – in other words, how it efficiently moves its forces around to counter any possible Russian attack on NATO countries. The recent addition of Finland and Sweden to the NATO Alliance has heightened this problem by adding nearly 1400 kilometers to the direct border with Putin’s Russia.

      Under section 5 of NATO’s code, any attack on any member is regarded as an attack on all and must be defended by all. That makes the ability to deploy, and redeploy, military assets rapidly an essential defensive tool.

      The Baltic States and Poland are the frontline choices for any Russian attack, but Europe can’t afford to put all its eggs in one or two baskets. The only sensible answer is to develop rapid-mobility of its forces and equipment throughout the Alliance.

      Defences, in terms of aircraft, can be deployed easily over distance but anything that moves on the ground creates huge logistical and infrastructure problems. Tanks and major artillery can’t travel large distances on their own. They have to be transported either by road or train, and in large numbers.

      The biggest NATO exercise since the Cold War is presently underway and will last from January this year until the end of May. 90,000 personnel from 32 countries will be involved and a major part of their jobs will be to access current mobility issues. Since last year’s military summit in Vilnius, the Alliance has been working to ensure that 300,000 troops are in a state of permanent high readiness, and that they can deal with an attack from wherever it might come. Mobility is a huge factor in that plan.

      The NATO Alliance also has to plan for the integration and mobility of forces from the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and others from outside the borders of continental Europe in the event of an attack. To state the obvious, there are no roads or rail links across the Atlantic, and few even across the English Channel. Even in Europe itself, estimates state that the number of rail cars needed for tank transportation is only at about 10% of those that would be required in an emergency.

      Bridging equipment to cross rivers is also in short supply, as are many other components of a fully flexible and mobile force. In addition, tanks are much heavier than they used to be and not all road bridges, or even railway lines, can take that weight. All this not only requires money, which is beginning to come on-line, but time. Military mobility is an essential component of NATO’s defensive strategy, and Putin will hardly wait until NATO is ready.

      A related aspect of the mobility requirements is their security against Russian missile attacks. Infrastructure tends to be an easy target for missiles and, in particular, for drones, which are rapidly becoming the preferred weapon against fixed assets.

      My cynicism suggests it would be a lot quicker and cheaper to assassinate Putin, but there’s no guarantee that what comes after won’t be worse!

      Europe is finally realizing that Putin is now completely committed to his plan to reestablish the borders of the old Soviet Union, if not the old Russian Empire. The once reliable NATO backing of the United States appears to be wavering with the naïve, idiotic and myopic antics of the Republican Party and its dictatorial leader.

      I must admit that I still don’t think the U.S. will renege on its treaty obligations under NATO, but wishful thinking is a very dangerous defence strategy.

      It’s difficult to believe that Putin would actually launch an attack on NATO, given that it is now stronger than ever with the addition of Finland and Sweden but, again, wishful thinking is a very dangerous defence strategy.

      It’s too easy to sometimes forget that just because he buys his suits in Saville Row in London, he is in no way anything other than a KGB thug. The revitalization of Europe’s ability to operate a flexible and highly mobile defence force maybe one of the major ways of deterring his ambitions….maybe!

      He’s not getting any younger, and re-establishing the Russian Empire has been his life-long dream, so what has he got to lose by attacking? Like his acolyte Trump, it is all about him, and only him, so possible consequences of his ambition are unlikely to deter him. Even overwhelming force might not do that either, but we would be stupid not to try.

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