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NATO return to Cold War force structure


Martineleca

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At the end of the Cold War more than half of NATO’s forces in central Europe were from the West German Bundeswehr and Royal Netherlands Army, together the two nations had over 600 000 troops, 5500 tanks and self-propelled guns as well as a thousand combat aircraft with which they would have led modern day operations Solstice and Spring Awakening against still superior Soviet forces. Three decades of “peace dividend” policies later they are down by nearly two thirds to 220 000 personnel, a paltry 500 tanks and self-propelled guns and 250 tactical aircraft, far below the CFE treaty limitations in addition to spending only half of the agreed two percent minimum of GDP meant to sustain military readiness.  Although they are no longer frontline countries, realistically the border of NATO has only shifted 900km to the east and now that conflict is brewing once more deployment of their formerly substantial armored elements to stabilize the region would not have been too arduous an undertaking, considering that the US is doing it from across the ocean. Plans to roughly double defense budgets from next year is of course a positive sign that Western Europe is once again taking conventional strength seriously, but it’s unclear if it will be enough to build up to at least 60% of the mechanized forces they had in the past.

Edited by Martineleca
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The positive is that we are buying some more F-35s, the rocket artillery is coming back, we get some more PzH2000. The 13th Light Brigade is planned to become a medium brigade and a project is going on to buy loitering ammunition and UAVs for the infantry battalions and recce coy of the brigade. 

De Peel airbase, which is now home of the air defense units, will be reopened for fixed wing ops. They already did airborne noise level tests with someF-35s over there. Also we are getting a new air defense system dedicated for the brigades to replace the air defense we had in the past with the Cheetah SPAAG/Stingers for the brigades.

CV90s are being modernised with integrated Spike missiles. So that's the good news. The bad news is that we still have 8000 people short to fill all the jobs. So Corporals are for example now doing the job of the squad sergeant. It is also hard to find people in the higher NCO ranks and a lot of young capable captains leave the army because of better payment in civilian jobs. 

But indeed, unfortunately, still a meager shadow of the Dutch armed forces in the late eigthies.....

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5 hours ago, Lesley said:

The bad news is that we still have 8000 people short to fill all the jobs.

That's the core of the issue. You can substitute the lack of manpower only that far. The good news is, Russia has similar demographic issues.

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8 hours ago, Ssnake said:

That's the core of the issue. You can substitute the lack of manpower only that far. The good news is, Russia has similar demographic issues.

Israel has roughly half the population of the Netherlands, yet is able to maintain 170 000 active troops with 2100 MBTs and SPGs, of course they are located in a very unstable region, but it does demonstrate that the ratio between population and military force size is very flexible.

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Israel depends on conscripts which are typically cheaper than professional troops. Plus Israel gets billions from the US in both military and civilian grants. Isreal would of died decades ago without such grants.

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17 minutes ago, TrustMe said:

Israel depends on conscripts which are typically cheaper than professional troops. Plus Israel gets billions from the US in both military and civilian grants. Isreal would of died decades ago without such grants.

Actually, US aid is quite small but not insignificant percentage of Israeli defence budget. People often give it way bigger meaning than it has been, albeit in some critical areas it has been significant. Usually it has been 10-15% of total Israeli defence spending.

Real numbers here: https://sgp.fas.org/crs/mideast/RL33222.pdf 

E.g. 2020 Israeli defence budget was $21.70 Bn when US aid was $3 Bn (plus 0.5 Bn for joint missile defence projects). Note also, that US military aid can only be used for purchases from USA, not for domestic weapon procurement, with some exceptions like joint projects. 

As for NATO topic, I doubt Netherlands is going to re-institute conscription.

Edited by Sardaukar
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It’s hard to picture NATO rearming to Cold War levels when the threat is so greatly reduced. Many parts of NATO are buying new equipment while Russia is undergoing a constant loss of its best equipment and troops. It’s hard to picture when they will get back to pre-invasion level strength again in terms of combat effectiveness (shear number of vehicles and men under arms not withstanding).

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11 minutes ago, Josh said:

It’s hard to picture NATO rearming to Cold War levels when the threat is so greatly reduced. Many parts of NATO are buying new equipment while Russia is undergoing a constant loss of its best equipment and troops. It’s hard to picture when they will get back to pre-invasion level strength again in terms of combat effectiveness (shear number of vehicles and men under arms not withstanding).

Some estimates are that it'll take at least 10 years for Russia to get back to pre-Feb 2022 levels, especially with technology sanctions and shrinking economy. 

And as we see from Invasion of Ukraine, that pre-war level was not that impressive either. So, basically, balance of power has already shifted significantly to NATO's side. 

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NATO's "frontline" members might, and some already have, re-introduced conscription, or are taking it more serious again where it was never abolished - even if it's frequently more of a selective service to cover needs not already filled by volunteers. Lithuania went back to it in 2015, Sweden in 2017; Latvia plans it for next year. Estonia is raising the annual intake and debating mandatory female service, like Norway did in 2013 (though for pre-Ukrainian PC reasons). As our Polish members have noted, the somewhat grandiose plans of their current government to expand the armed forces would pretty much require re-introduction of the draft, too; though as it seems to be a bit of a popularity contest, not least in view of next year's elections, it's far from certain what will come off it.

Conscription definitely makes sense for smallish countries with immediate hostile neighbors, to increase their standing forces quickly in times of crisis and fend off a possible initial attack. For bigger second- and third-line nations, not so much in view of Russian performance in Ukraine and the abovementioned perspective for them to rebuild. Even in the 80s, some in NATO were suggesting that the US and UK should bring back the draft to counter the Red Hordes which would pour into Western Europe, but looking at it now it doesn't seem necessary to mobilize all of Europe against the Russian threat. Bringing the existing forces up to speed and either forward-deploy them or ensure they're rapidly deployable to back up the frontline countries seems much more important.

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In my opinion, it is really difficult to make predictions about the needed force levels/ structures as we don't know what the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe will be in say 2 years. Poland (and as far as I can say the Baltic States) is as of now acting according to a rather worst case scenario, meaning that the army we are building should be enough to defend ourselves against ZBiR ( "Związek Białorusi i Rosji", Union of Belarus and Russia, hilariously "zbir" means "thug" in Polish) that assimilated Ukraine and is attacking across the entirety of our eastern border, hence the projected need for 6 maneuver divisions. 
Realistically though, this scenario is very unlikely to materialize at this point. It seems much more likely that the future security arrangements will include Ukraine as armed to the teeth NATO member, or at least an ally. Still, there's clearly a need for Poland having an army able to stop the bear at the border, letting him in while waiting for reinforcements form the West and taking the ground back means destruction and civilian losses that are not acceptable. In my opinion, the mission of Polish Army in the foreseeable future will be centered around being able to be deploy significant ground forced to the eastern NATO border, either in the Baltic States or Ukraine to deter/ intervene in a future crisis. As for Western European countries, one might hope that they at minimum will stop cutting their heavy forces and would be able to field at least a proper heavy division or two (in case of Germany and perhaps France) each. This force level seems more than enough to dissuade the russkies from any future adventures in the region.
IMO what is the most important for European NATO members is to acknowledge that a conventional land war in Europe is realistic enough possibility that it requires at least some planning for. This means keeping relevant ammunition stocks and production capabilities, having air forces in usable condition etc. This I think as already happening, at least on the declarative level.

Edited by Huba
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12 hours ago, Huba said:

In my opinion, it is really difficult to make predictions about the needed force levels/ structures as we don't know what the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe will be in say 2 years.

Indeed, hope for the best and plan for the worst ought to have been an enforced NATO policy with only limited disarmament allowed, peace through strength had worked well for half a centrury and dumping it was a terrible security decision and waste of recources. Procuring even half that equipment today would be massively more expensive than properly storing and maintaining it would have been, but it is immoral to expect the Eastern European countries to solely fund the mechanized forces on call to protect the entire continent.

Edited by Martineleca
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I see the number of NATO nations precluding the need for the sort of force levels seen during the cold war.  There just is not the will to carry the cost with everything that has happened over the last few years.  More than has been the case yes, cold war levels, no.

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There is a case for saying all the major nations should provide a division, the minor ones a brigade. Anything other than that is laziness. Not that I think we should at present do more than that. I think we need to make it scaleable against the threat Russia presents. Which for a few years at least, is not much. But no need to be complacent.

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On 11/12/2022 at 9:25 AM, Stuart Galbraith said:

There is a case for saying all the major nations should provide a division, the minor ones a brigade. Anything other than that is laziness. Not that I think we should at present do more than that. I think we need to make it scaleable against the threat Russia presents. Which for a few years at least, is not much. But no need to be complacent.

Do you see any other countries receiving the MBT deal Poland got, there are still a few thousand T-72 tanks in eastern Europe in various states of reserve or deep storage, a few hundred Abrams exchanged on a 2x1 basis for them being sent to Ukraine would do wonders for the combat readiness of those nations wouldn't it?

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Americans are wary these days of just handing off kit like that. Partly because it implies they bought too much in the first place, partly I guess because it could be seen as 'escalatory'.

Besides, I question how many European nations can afford to operate an Abrams equipped Brigade. They would have to have diesel engines fitted first I suspect, and who is going to pay for that?

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4 hours ago, Martineleca said:

Do you see any other countries receiving the MBT deal Poland got, there are still a few thousand T-72 tanks in eastern Europe in various states of reserve or deep storage, a few hundred Abrams exchanged on a 2x1 basis for them being sent to Ukraine would do wonders for the combat readiness of those nations wouldn't it?

Re.: thousands of T-72 - I am afraid that not. I doubt that sum would now reach thousand at all. 

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1 hour ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

I question how many European nations can afford to operate an Abrams equipped Brigade. They would have to have diesel engines fitted first I suspect, and who is going to pay for that?

These days, fuel consumption is a non-issue. They all have APUs now. Turbines are cheaper in maintenance. The only critical thing, AIUI, is the need for specialized welders when you have to separate/reconnect the heat exchanger.

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21 minutes ago, Ssnake said:

These days, fuel consumption is a non-issue. They all have APUs now. Turbines are cheaper in maintenance. The only critical thing, AIUI, is the need for specialized welders when you have to separate/reconnect the heat exchanger.

Is that not just dis similar welding?.

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On 11/5/2022 at 6:44 PM, Martineleca said:

At the end of the Cold War more than half of NATO’s forces in central Europe were from the West German Bundeswehr and Royal Netherlands Army, together the two nations had over 600 000 troops, 5500 tanks and self-propelled guns as well as a thousand combat aircraft with which they would have led modern day operations Solstice and Spring Awakening against still superior Soviet forces. Three decades of “peace dividend” policies later they are down by nearly two thirds to 220 000 personnel, a paltry 500 tanks and self-propelled guns and 250 tactical aircraft, far below the CFE treaty limitations in addition to spending only half of the agreed two percent minimum of GDP meant to sustain military readiness.  Although they are no longer frontline countries, realistically the border of NATO has only shifted 900km to the east and now that conflict is brewing once more deployment of their formerly substantial armored elements to stabilize the region would not have been too arduous an undertaking, considering that the US is doing it from across the ocean. Plans to roughly double defense budgets from next year is of course a positive sign that Western Europe is once again taking conventional strength seriously, but it’s unclear if it will be enough to build up to at least 60% of the mechanized forces they had in the past.

https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2022/09/21/britain-revises-its-defense-plans-in-light-of-russias-war/  Might interest you as to Uk. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/defence-spending-pledges-by-nato-members-since-russia-invaded-ukraine/#:~:text=NATO defence spending since 2014&text=Between 2014 and 2022%2C defence,by %24140 billion (15%).

Edited by R E lee
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2 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

 I take the point about APU's, but why did Iraq specify diesels for their Abrams? Is there more blade erosion in dusty conditions?

I understand that at this point there are less operable AGT-1500 than Abrams hulls, and turbines from stored tanks are being moved around to keep the active fleet running. It was offered as an argument why the US can't simply dump its entire reserve Abrams stocks on Ukraine or others, anyway.

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20 hours ago, Pavel Novak said:

Re.: thousands of T-72 - I am afraid that not. I doubt that sum would now reach thousand at all. 

Well Bulgaria has around 400 fairly well maintained at the Terem plant, Poland has a further 300 most of them being superior PT-91s, Georgia's got 150 and they would probably jump at the opportunity to exchange them with something modern considering the likelihood of trouble again, Hungary also has in the range of 150, perhaps they could be pressured to supply them to a third country in some manner, Slovakia and the Czech Republic combined have another 100 units left in deep storage, so potentially just over a thousand.

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18 hours ago, R E lee said:

I'm always a bit weary when bureaucrats announce budget increases without an actual list of what will be procured, funds can disappear pretty quickly especially these days, rather than the latest pet project or "social initiative" that wastes millions while adding nothing to actual defense, it must be ensured the majority of the budget will go towards purchasing new and maintaining existing equipment.

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1 hour ago, Martineleca said:

Well Bulgaria has around 400 fairly well maintained at the Terem plant, Poland has a further 300 most of them being superior PT-91s, Georgia's got 150 and they would probably jump at the opportunity to exchange them with something modern considering the likelihood of trouble again, Hungary also has in the range of 150, perhaps they could be pressured to supply them to a third country in some manner, Slovakia and the Czech Republic combined have another 100 units left in deep storage, so potentially just over a thousand.

I think that Bulgarian numbers are inflated. Hungarian probably too.

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