Auf das Treffen der NATO-Verteidigungsminister in den kommenden zwei Tagen (10. und 11. Februar), bei dem es auch um die Unterstützung mit NATO-AWACS für den Kampf gegen ISIS und um eine mögliche Beteiligung der Allianz an der Schleuserbekämpfung in der Ägäis gehen wird, hatte ich hier schon hingewiesen. Aber diese beiden Themen finden nur am Rande statt – im Mittelpunkt wird die neu als Schwerpunkt entdeckte Abschreckungswirkung der NATO, vor allem im Hinblick auf Russland, stehen.
Die ausführlichste öffentliche Erläuterung dessen, worum es in Brüssel am Mittwoch und Donnerstag gehen soll, findet sich beim NATO-Botschafter der USA, Douglas Lute. Sein Briefing am (gestrigen) Dienstag vor dem Ministertreffen ist komplett hier nachzulesen; besonders interessant finde ich die Erklärungen zu der geplanten Ausweitung des US-Engagements in Europa, der so genannten European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Zwei Kernaussagen dazu fallen mir auf: erstens, die USA werden faktisch eine Heeresdivision in Europa stationieren. Und zweitens wird ein Großteil des dafür nötigen Materials in Westeuropa stehen – es gehört wenig Fantasie dazu, davon auszugehen, dass das zu einem erheblichen Teil in Deutschland sein wird.
Zu diesem Thema Lutes Wortlaut (der Bedeutung wegen sehr ausführlich zitiert; Hervorhebungen von mir):
What’s new for NATO? I think really this ERI brings three important parts to reinforcing deterrence for NATO. First of all, it means that we will have more frequent U.S. troops training in Europe. In fact, so frequent now that we will always have one armored brigade rotating from the States over here in Europe for training purposes.
Today, this year, for example, that’s only true for about half of the year. Beginning with this new funding, we’ll be able to fund a brigade over here on a rotational basis all year, beginning next year. So in a sense it’s double the reinforcement from the States on an annual basis.
The second thing is that about half of the $3.4 billion has to do with prepositioning heavy equipment in Europe. Of course, this is a page out of the old deterrence handbook because during the Cold War we had many such prepositioned sites where we stored American equipment ready to go to combat, but the troops actually lived in the United States. We’re updating that and bringing that page into the modern playbook by way of a set of combat equipment, not designed for training purposes but designed to fight, that will be prepositioned in a number of Western European allied sites and configured in unit sets.
Now why is this important? Because the unit set configuration facilitates flying a unit from its home base in the United States to one site to link up with that prepositioned set of equipment, configured equipment, and then move off into the crisis space.
So exactly what equipment is being purchased? So we will bring a division headquarters – an American division is 15 to 20,000 strong – so we’ll bring the headquarters and the command and control equipment for a division here and preposition it. We will bring an armored brigade set, so tanks, Bradleys, motorized artillery, mechanized artillery and so forth, we will bring that over here and configure it. We will bring a separate artillery brigade which involves both cannon artillery, conventional artillery, but also longer range rocket artillery to Europe and preposition it. That is a heavy brigade of fire power which will be very much welcome here by NATO allies. Then we’re going to bring sustainment assets as well and other enablers.
So what you essentially have by way of the announcement last week is the foundation of an American army division prepositioned over here in Europe.
Now there will be a question which I’ll just cover right now. How does this set of equipment relate to the equipment that’s already being prepositioned? They’re really two different things.
About six months ago, we announced that we were going to put another brigade of American army equipment in small unit sets along the eastern flank of the Alliance to facilitate our training rotation. So these are company or less than battalion sets — 10 tanks one place, 15 Bradleys in another place — where troops who are committed to the forward presence mission can simply and more efficiently fall in on this equipment, do their training, bring it back to warehouse and so forth. So that’s ongoing. And there’s a brigade set of equipment in the east now that’s used for training purposes that’s not the same as what was announced last week. Last week is additive, in addition to that previous brigade set.
Some are already claiming in the press that such a move by the United States is provocative, that perhaps it violates the NATO-Russia Founding Act. We don’t see it that way at all. In fact, the NATO-Russia Founding Act allows for improvements in that infrastructure. And after all, these are not substantial combat forces until they’re married up with the troops that would have to come from the United States. And finally, I don’t think the majority of this equipment will be in eastern allies. Most of it will be in the western allies. So whether it’s because it’s not actually a force or it’s not geographically in the east, or frankly, that in some other way it might violate the NATO-Russia Founding Act – we simply don’t see it that way. In fact, we think the NATO-Russia Founding Act allows for this kind of infrastructure improvement.
Finally, to the claim that this might be provocative – look, NATO hasn’t invaded anyone lately. This is a defensive alliance, it has always been a defensive alliance. I think the historical pattern here is that nobody has to worry about NATO taking offensive action, but rather what we should have complete confidence in is that NATO will do what it’s done for 66 years, nearly 66 years, and that is abide by its commitments, meet its commitments for collective defense, and that’s what this equipment set is about.
So why would we preposition equipment in unit sets in the western part of the Alliance and not the east? Part of it has to do with where the transportation infrastructure is, where it exists. The transportation infrastructure — road, rail canal, air, land and sea — is much more robust and developed in the western part of the Alliance than in the eastern part. So if you’re not sure where you’re going to use this equipment, where it’s going to be needed on the day, you want to retain flexibility in terms of where you locate it so that it can be moved agilely in multiple directions. So we’re not committing this to the east, for example, because we’re not sure it’s going to be needed in the east. We want the flexibility to move it as we say in the council room, 360 degrees. So that’s part of it.
Another part of why position in the west is that the facilities needed to house this equipment are already existent in the west. Why? Because they were there from the Cold War. So we can get an earlier start on this if we move into existing infrastructure than if we have to start from scratch and build new infrastructure. And moving it in the west doesn’t prejudge later moves. So it gives us an opportunity to make the move next year in a big way, contribute to the deterrence spectrum along reliable transportation infrastructure and in existing facilities. So that’s in large part why the equipment is going initially where it’s going.
Now your question having to do with forward presence. So I mentioned that one of the things that this $3.4 billion is going to buy next year is a full year of the presence of an armored brigade from the States, which is kind of twice the presence of that type that we have this year. Most of that presence will rotate, that brigade presence, will rotate to the eastern flank on training and so forth. Most of that training is done at sub-battalion level. So you have a U.S. company training with an Estonian battalion; or two U.S. companies training with Romania in the training ranges, very capable training ranges down in Romania or Bulgaria.
A question that will not be resolved this week but that still lays in front of us by Warsaw is how much forward presence is enough? And that question, I think, really speaks to your comment, Julian. We won’t decide that this week, but ministers, I believe, will take a decision to go back to Phil Breedlove this week and say, we want you to assess how much is enough on forward presence. We know what’s there now, and we now have to imagine along this deterrence spectrum whether we’re satisfied with what we have committed so far. I won’t prejudge the answer to that question. But this is going to be a big policy question and a resource question as we move towards Warsaw, how much is enough on the eastern flank?
Der US-Botschafter ging, natürlich, auch auf die Frage ein, was denn mit der von Deutschland und der Türkei angeregten Unterstützung der NATO für die Bekämpfung der Schleuser ist. Da scheint es, dass die USA ebenso wie auch der Generalsekretär der Allianz ein wenig von dem Vorstoß überrascht wurden. Denn eine formelle Anfrage gibt es nicht, wie aus Lutes Worten klar wird:
First of all, NATO has procedures for those occasions when any ally comes to the Alliance and requests assistance. That’s the standard, there’s a bit of a drill here. We know how to do this. Recently Turkey, for example, asked for measures to bolster Turkey’s assurance that it could secure its own airspace. So NATO has taken some steps and committed those capabilities to Turkey. The United States, for example, has recently come to NATO and said hey, could you help us with some AWACS capability? And we’re assessing that request. Eastern allies two years ago, in the face of Crimea and the Donbas, came to the Alliance and said we need to see NATO, in Estonia through Bulgaria, and we’ve responded to that.
So if there’s a request that’s made by the German and/or Turkish minister in the next couple of days, we’ll have to assess what exactly the request is. I’ve seen the press reports but there hasn’t been a formal request. We’ll have to see what form that request takes.
NATO has a lot of capabilities it might bring to bear on this. Everything from intelligence sharing, information sharing, you mentioned hypothetically maritime or air capabilities. We’ll have to wait and see what the request is. However, you also mentioned in your question, or you commented that the primary responsibility falls not to NATO but to the European Union, which itself accepts that it has primary responsibility to back up its member states in these sorts of crises. So border control, migration and so forth. This is fundamentally an issue that should be addressed a couple of miles from here, in EU headquarters. But that doesn’t mean that NATO can’t assist.
So we’re just going to have to wait and see if the press reports play out in the Ministerial itself; to see what the form of such a request might be; and then NATO knows how to do this. We’ll take this into the staff process, we’ll go into the military authorities, we’ll ask what capabilities might be useful here, and we’ll move forward.
So it’s a little too soon to tell. We’ll have to just see. I’ll be listening carefully when the Germany minister intervenes tomorrow, and we’ll see if there is such a formal request.
(Foto: A gunner from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe, aboard a U.S. Army M1126 Stryker, shows his Allied Spirit IV enthusiasm Jan. 24 at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Training Area, Germany – U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)