Mark Collins – War Gaming NATO and US vs Bear in Baltics: Blues Lose

This is distinctly dispiriting in light of the new world disorder–and the Russkies well know how to war game too. An excerpt from a piece at Foreign Policy (I’m sure already read over there):

Exclusive: The Pentagon Is Preparing New War Plans for a Baltic Battle Against Russia
But the really troubling thing is that in the war games being played, the United States keeps losing…

War games, and losing

In June 2014, a month after he had left his force-planning job at the Pentagon, the Air Force asked [David] Ochmanek [former deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development] for advice on Russia’s neighborhood ahead of Obama’s September visit to Tallinn, Estonia. At the same time, the Army had approached another of Ochmanek’s colleagues at Rand, and the two teamed up to run a thought exercise called a “table top,” a sort of war game between two teams: the red team (Russia) and the blue team (NATO). The scenario was similar to the one that played out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: increasing Russian political pressure on Estonia and Latvia (two NATO countries that share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian-speaking minorities), followed by the appearance of provocateurs, demonstrations, and the seizure of government buildings. “Our question was: Would NATO be able to defend those countries?” Ochmanek recalls.

The results were dispiriting. Given the recent reductions in the defense budgets of NATO member countries and American pullback from the region, Ochmanek says the blue team was outnumbered 2-to-1 in terms of manpower, even if all the U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Europe were dispatched to the Baltics — including the 82nd Airborne, which is supposed to be ready to go on 24 hours’ notice and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“We just don’t have those forces in Europe,” Ochmanek explains. Then there’s the fact that the Russians have the world’s best surface-to-air missiles and are not afraid to use heavy artillery.

After eight hours of gaming out various scenarios, the blue team went home depressed. “The conclusion,” Ochmanek says, “was that we are unable to defend the Baltics.”

Ochmanek decided to run the game on a second day. The teams played the game again, this time working on the assumption that the United States and NATO had already started making positive changes to their force posture in Europe. Would anything be different? The conclusion was slightly more upbeat, but not by much. “We can defend the capitals, we can present Russia with problems, and we can take away the prospect of a coup de main,” Ochmanek says. “But the dynamic remains the same.” Even without taking into account the recent U.S. defense cuts, due to sequestration, and the Pentagon’s plan to downsize the Army by 40,000 troops, the logistics of distance were still daunting. U.S. battalions would still take anywhere from one to two months to mobilize and make it across the Atlantic, and the Russians, Ochmanek notes, “can do a lot of damage in that time.”

Ochmanek has run the two-day table-top exercise eight times now, including at the Pentagon and at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, with active-duty military officers. “We played it 16 different times with eight different teams,” Ochmanek says, “always with the same conclusion.”..

Ouch. Related:

The Incredible Shrinking US Army

US Air Force Woes, Part 2…

Euro NATO Defence Spending Not the Problem

Europe’s Atrophying Militaries, German Section

Tough Question for NATO: “Would we really go nuclear to protect Estonia?

Then there’s Canada:

NATO and Canadian Defence: The One Per Cent Solution

Another Decade of Darkness for the Canadian Forces? Part 2

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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