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Calling “Team Yankee”

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Calling “Team Yankee”: Why the U.S. Needs Heavy Armor Back in Europe

Brad Striegel

“Now if those upcoming U.S. Russian talks should breakdown for any reasons  [Pentagon] officials here   warn Russia could still launch an invasion without warning and admit that the U.S. and Ukraine would be powerless to stop it.”  -NBC news Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, 28 March 2014

Things have certainly changed since the end of the Cold War.  In 1987 Harold Coyle, a serving Armor officer at the time, published “Team Yankee,”  the New York Times bestseller about a U.S. Army armor company that fights in a Soviet invasion of Western Europe.   The story was fiction, but plausible fiction and the fact that the U.S. Army had 214,000 troops, 2 Corps, 4 divisions and thousands of tanks, armored personnel carriers  and artillery in what was then West Germany gave “Team Yankee” a scary realism.  “Team Yankee” was an M1 Abrams Tank and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle company/team mix common in U.S Army Europe’s (USAREUR) combat arms formations at the time and prevalent in today’s combined arms battalions.  Unfortunately, this capability has been eliminated from USAREUR’s combined arms repertoire, creating capability gaps for European Command (EUCOM).  These were capabilities that were taken for granted not so long ago.  When Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula by force, EUCOM and NATO did nothing, partly because they had limited options with the current force structure.  USAREUR’s armor, as well as its field artillery and mission command had atrophied in light of worldwide events, budget cuts and force structure decisions.  This article will examine how USAREUR came to its present “powerless” state and what can be done about it in regards to deterring and or countering Russian military aggression.  

When the Berlin Wall came down in late 1989 the Soviet Union collapsed shortly afterward and the Warsaw Pact fell apart.  The great armored battles with Warsaw Pact forces that were planned for by the U.S. Army still occurred, not with the Soviets but with Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm.  “Peace dividends” ensued along with peace operations and low-intensity conflicts like those in the Balkans and Somalia.  In 1993, then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin denied a heavy armor request from U.S. field commanders in Somalia fearing it would send the wrong message in the conduct of what was supposed to primarily be a humanitarian operation.  Heavy armor, particularly tanks, seemed to becoming passé.  Unable to call upon their own heavy armor in the Battle of Mogadishu, field commanders had to request armor support from United Nations forces, exacerbating a deadly delay in the rescue of trapped U.S. forces.  In 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom was initiated in Afghanistan, followed shortly thereafter by Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Stability operations ensued where heavy armor and massed artillery fires fell out of favor and practical utilization in such operations.  USAREUR shrunk some more.  In 2012 the last two Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs), the 170th and 172nd, were inactivated.  In March of 2013, the last U.S. tank left Germany, ending a nearly 70 year history of their presence in Western Europe. “Team Yankee” seemed to have become an anachronism in light of COIN operations in Central Command.   “Team Yankee”, as the Army knew it in Europe, is fiction now more than ever.  The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army must reconsider assigning heavy armored forces back in EUCOM and get back into the deterrent business with Russia as it had done so well during the Cold War.

“I looked the man [Putin] in the eye.  I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue.  I was able to get a sense of his soul.”  -Former President George W. Bush, 2001

When Russia decided to annex Crimea in March the U.S. and NATO could do virtually nothing militarily.  The only U.S. Army land power remaining in EUCOM is 2 BCTs.   NATO’s Rapid Response Force (NRF), already burdened by a high OPTEMPO from operations in Afghanistan and European austerity, did nothing.  The U.S, along with NATO, could only resort to diplomatic, information and economic instruments of power to protest Russia’s occupation of Crimea.  After fourteen years of war, billions spent on nation building, our nation in debt and thousands of casualties it’s no surprise that the U.S. is not so willing and able to engage Russia in a force on force slugfest imagined in “Team Yankee.”  Nor should it be any surprise that the NATO did nothing either.   Putin, like a shark smelling blood in the water, saw an opportunity to take a bite out of Europe for himself with virtual impunity. It was too easy.  The annexation of Crimea should not have been a surprise to NATO.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 should have been a call to action for NATO and the U.S. as it hinted at things to come under Putin’s leadership.  The Georgian-Russian conflict was initiated by ethnic Georgian and Ossetian/Russian tensions in the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia invaded with an effective combined arms joint force, conquering the disputed territories in Georgia and then some within 5 days.  The Georgians, with their five Infantry Brigades, put up the best fight they could as one would expect from a small, third rate military in a conventional fight with Russia.  One Georgian infantry brigade fighting in Iraq was hastily redeployed by U.S. Air Force transports back to Georgia to fight the Russian invasion.  This would be the only military assistance from the U.S. during the battle.   A ceasefire was eventually reached but Russia had already achieved independence of what are now known as the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and brought them into Russia’s sphere of influence.  While the U.S. and other NATO members had heavy armor units in Europe during the Georgian invasion, no allied military force of any kind would come to counter the Russian attack.  The U.S. was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan as was Europe’s own premier military forces.  For NATO, this was an ironic turn of events. Instead of defending Western Europe’s backyard from Russian incursion as it was originally chartered to do, it was fighting Islamic insurgents in Central Asia.  The U.S. Army officers who had trained on the Georgia-Armenia-Azerbaijan-Turkey (GAAT) scenario at the Command and General Staff College would not deploy to that region as well.  Without strong U.S. leadership, NATO’s response to such an incursion will in all probability be tepid, weak and ineffective.

NATO, with U.S. leadership, is the only organization in Europe that can effectively deter and check such Russian aggression.  NATO’s primary military resource for this is the NRF.  The NRF was established in October 2003 and as stated on the NATO website, “is comprised of three parts: a command and control element from the NATO Command Structure; the Immediate Response Force, a joint force of around 13,000 high-readiness troops provided by Allies; and a Response Forces Pool, which can supplement the Immediate Response Force when necessary.  The Immediate Response Force has:  a brigade-sized land component based on three Battle Groups and their supporting elements; a maritime component based on the Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) and the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group (SNMCMG); a combat air and air-support component; Special Operations Forces; and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense task force.”   In order to beef up the NRF, NATO must expedite membership for Georgia, Ukraine and other European nations at risk of invasion or intimidation by Russia in order to increase membership in the NRF.  Ukraine, a NATO partner nation, has already in 2010 and is the first NATO partner nation to do so.  USAREUR is a key contributor to the NRF but its commitment is only a fraction of its former self. The U.S. will have to lead NATO in any forceful engagement with Russia.  NATO’s lack of action is scary and alarming.   Hopefully the U.S, through EUCOM, is taking appropriate action with Europe and NATO leaders.  However, the U.S. Army commitment to Europe must change its posture and structure to facilitate an effective military strategy against the Russians. While USAREUR’s fact sheet states that, “U.S. Army Europe is America's strategic forward enabler with unparalleled capability to prevent conflict, shape the environment and, if necessary, win decisively” there are glaring capabilities gaps in USAREUR’s force structure that are at odds with this statement.

The U.S. Army Europe Commitment  

The recent inactivation of the 2 ABCTs in Germany leaves only the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker), the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade as the only significant U.S. Army combat power stationed in EUCOM.   While they are considered forward based units designed to rapidly deploy to regional trouble spots, the USAREUR force structure, by design, primarily facilitates only humanitarian aid/disaster response, theater security cooperation and strategic air defense.  As a lightly armored fighting force it is best suited to fight against 3rd rate militaries and irregular adversaries.  As a part of a deterrent strategy against regional power with a large modern Army, like Russia, the force structure is woefully inadequate.  It lacks the heavy armor and heavy artillery needed to be an effective forward based combined arms force that can hold its own battle space until reinforcements arrive.  However, deterrence is not stated in either EUCOM’s or USAREUR’s mission statements and it probably was marginalized or willfully ignored by the U.S. and NATO due to the collapse of the Soviet Unit and the possible assumptions that the Russians were “one of us” when Russia adopted a democratic, free market system that later turned into a corrupt oligarchy.  The current USAREUR force structure, though rapidly deployable, is too light, enough so to get itself into serious trouble if it were committed to fight with a Russian armored force. 

Stationing an airborne infantry brigade instead of an armored brigade in EUCOM is the first problem.  USAREUR does not need an airborne infantry brigade.   The Airborne’s relevance in unified land operations has been rendered nearly obsolete since the advent of rotary wing air assault equipment and doctrine developed after World War 2.  The Army’s airborne capability has been marginalized so much that Ft. Bragg stood up its own air assault school in 2013.  Additionally, increased anti-access, aerial denial (A2AD) capabilities make large scale airborne assaults a fool hardy and nearly suicidal endeavor now more than ever.  The 11th Aviation Regiment’s failed deep attack at the battle of Najaf, Iraq is testimony to how vulnerable low and slow flying aircraft of any type can be in an air assault of any kind. The unsophisticated Iraqi air defense involved observation posts/listening posts, cell phones, city light signals and Iraqi’s firing their machine guns straight up into the night sky.  Lightly armed paratroopers floating down to the ground in such a crossfire are even more helpless until they land.  Even then, airborne units that cannot be rapidly reinforced by armored formations or have significant organic anti-tank capabilities have a high risk of being decimated  once making contact with a tough and determined enemy, especially enemy forces with heavy armor.  The allied airborne drop conducted in Operation Market Garden during World War 2 illustrates what happens when paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines and encounter equivalently trained and motivated forces with armor and also have limited, vulnerable supply routes required for them to conduct a link up with friendly forces. 

The Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), as a medium armored force, is a significant step up in capability from an airborne brigade, but a Stryker is still no substitute for an Abrams tank.  The Stryker Mobile Gun System’s 105 mm cannon is primarily designed to provide fire support to infantry and destroy lightly armored threats.   However, its anti-tank capability is only good up to the T-62 tank.  The Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle with its TOW missiles and the Mortar Carrier variants with ten 120mm mortars per battalion can also provide some anti-tank capability.  The primary component of the SBCT , of course, is the Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV), but it is nothing more than a lightly armored taxi with a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on it.  Against a combined arms Russian assault with T-90 tanks, artillery and close air support, the Stryker ICV is a rolling coffin for 11 troops.   The absence of more firepower on the Stryker ICV, like the Marine Corps 25mm chain gun on their LAV-25’s, which uses the same Stryker chassis, is conspicuous but not surprising since the Army probably valued carrying a  9 man squad instead of trading troop space for heavier firepower.  The LAV-25 can only carry a six man squad.  Used as Cavalry, the Stryker works well for reconnaissance, screening, security and irregular threats and the Army is looking at testing out a Kongsberg’s 30mm cannon on a Stryker company to boost its firepower.  Still, it’s not a tank.  

  “A battery of field artillery is worth a thousand muskets.”  - General William Tecumseh Sherman

Absent from USAREUR’s structure is a fires brigade.  A 2008 White Paper on field artillery to the Chief of Staff of the Army postulated that, “USAREUR may require its own fires brigade, just as it requires its own CAB.”   While the two BCTs there have organic field artillery battalions with a mix of M119 (105mm) and M777 (155mm) howitzers, their fire support capability cannot provide the deep fires required for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) that USAREURs CAB  would require for deep attacks or the reinforcing massed fires needed to destroy, neutralize or suppress advancing Russian armored formations. To remedy this gap the Army should first replace all remaining 105mm howitzers in its structure with the more capable 155mm howitzer in EUCOM as well as the entire Army.  This will standardize cannon artillery shells to one munitions size in the Army, simplify logistics and give all cannon battalions the optimal explosive artillery munition, not only for USAEUR, but the Army overall and the U.S. joint artillery force as well since the Marine Corps only utilizes the M777 howitzer.   

Second, the Army needs to activate or transfer a fires brigade headquarters with both multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) and the C-130 transportable high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) battalions.  The absence of a forward based fires brigade in EUCOM also leaves the forward based 12th CAB virtually defenseless and useless in a conflict with Russia or any enemy with a A2AD capability so why have a CAB there at all? As Iraq showed us, it doesn’t take much to create a significant air defense against an aerial attack.  The fires brigade should also be forward based as close to the Russian border as possible, ideally Poland, Romania or another border nation with Ukraine.  The stationing of a rocket/missile capable fires brigade as far east as possible utilizing both MLRS and HIMARS battalions gives the U.S. the capability to deter Russian advances west, support deep attacks and provides rapid, flexible inter-theater and intra-theater artillery employment options. 

“But what if the American Army has to fight somebody in the future beyond insurgents laying IEDs and small arms ambushes that is usually handled effectively by infantry platoons? What if a heavy Brigade Combat Team in Iraq was told to pick up and head east and do a movement to contact into a threatening country?  Could we do it?” – COL Gian Gentile

The lack of heavy armor formations in the USAREUR force structure is the largest glaring gap that needs to be addressed.  The decision to remove all heavy armor units from Europe seems questionable at best, especially in light of Russia’s 2008 invasion into Georgia and USAREURs Immediate Ready Task Force that deployed in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s assault into Northern Iraq in 2003.  To mitigate this gap the Army created the European Activity Set as part of Army Preposition Stock 3 and it designated the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division stationed at Ft. Hood, TX as a Regionally Aligned Force to Europe.  It’s a high risk strategy.  The European Activity Set has only enough armor to equip a combined arms battalion of M1-A1 Abrams and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  This armor strategy only works as part of a tiered, progressive build up of forces to respond to a threat but fails as a deterrent strategy and completely eliminates the option to rapidly deploy trained and ready heavy armor forces from a forward base in Europe.

“Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.” - Sun Tzu

The Army needs trained and ready heavy armor forces in EUCOM.  There are two possible options within the realm of feasibility that should be considered by the Army.  It can transfer a ABCT to Europe, preferably stationed further East in Poland or Romania or it can convert the 173rd IBCT(A)  and 2nd CR(S) into identical but hybrid brigade combat teams with heavy armor.  These hybrid brigade combat teams would each have two combined arms battalions, one light infantry (air assault) battalion, and one Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Stryker equipped squadron.  The hybrid BCTs would eliminate the impractical airborne capability with a more practical air assault capability, retain a rapid deployable medium armored capability that will also act as cavalry scouts for the hybrid BCT, and give back the much needed armored punch the USAREUR needs to deter and counter a Russian attack.  

The 2nd Infantry Division’s two BCTs in South Korea had a similar hybrid force structure before they were converted to their current structure and one of them was stationed back in the continental United States.   Heavy armor forces, as a RAND study noted, also facilitate scalability within the overall force structure.  You can take armor crewman and mechanized infantrymen out of their tanks and IFV’s, train them as light infantry and deploy them to COIN environments like Afghanistan and Iraq as the Army has done for the last 10 years.  Some may argue they may not be as proficient as regular light troops, but this concept was done with the 172nd and 170th BCTs before they inactivated.  Light troops, like paratroopers, cannot scale up to fight in tanks and conduct armored warfare so easily.  In regards to rapid deployment and forward basing the current design of light and medium armored formations in EUCOM and ABCTs based in CONUS seems to defy conventional wisdom.  Why does the Army base light infantry and medium armored units in EUCOM when they are the speediest formations to deploy and it already has 18th Airborne Corps standing by to rapidly deploy as part of the Global Response Force?  It makes much more sense to forward base armored units in EUCOM since they are the slowest units to deploy.  It also puts heavy armor units closer to CENTCOM and AFRICOM should they be urgently needed.

The Army also needs to transfer a division headquarters to EUCOM.  USAREUR needs an intermediate command and control headquarters to provide effective mission command for the current BCTs and any future combined arms structure assigned to it.  This headquarters would also provide a ready regional Joint Task Force headquarters for contingencies and crisis action response.  The lack of a division headquarters with two BCTs and a combat aviation brigade already in Europe is also perplexing but could be remedied by reassigning one of the existing ten division headquarters.   One way to do this is to reorganize the 2nd Infantry Division into forward and main headquarters elements, splitting mission command and their General Officers between the Ft. Lewis, WA divisional units and S. Korea divisional units. I Corps is currently structured and stationed in this fashion.  The 7th Infantry Division would transfer its flag to EUCOM and convert  a MTOE structure.  The other option is to convert USAREUR headquarters into a Corps headquarters. The USAREUR CG and the Corps headquarters would be dual hatted as the corps Commanding General and the USARUUER Command General.

 “In pure [cyberwar] capability, our biggest enemy is Russia, followed closely by China.” -Richard Clarke, author, “Cyberwar”

USAREUR should plan heavily for cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) and warfare with Russia.  As defined in the Army’s Field Manual, FM 3-38; Cyber Electromagnetic  Activities, “ … are activities leveraged to seize, retain, and exploit an advantage over adversaries and enemies in both cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, while simultaneously denying and degrading adversary and enemy use of the same and protecting the mission command system . CEMA consist of cyberspace operations (CO), electronic warfare (EW), and spectrum management operations (SMO).”    Combat units fighting Russian forces should expect GPS, LandWarNet, Blue Force trackers, digital fire control systems, etc, to be either degraded or inoperable.  Imagine a time before the digital age, before the internet and wireless devices, and how the

Army trained in those times.  This is how any military units engaging Russian forces need to train to mitigate cyber electromagnetic degradation or losses to any systems vulnerable to such attacks; USAREUR should be prepared to fight the Russians as we fought our enemies in Desert Storm, Vietnam or even World War II.   USAREUR units should still focus on shooting, moving, and hopefully communicating, but as they did these tasks twenty years ago or more.  All rolling stock and other equipment that supports the war fighter in EUCOM should go through electromagnetic hardening to help ensure their performance is not degraded in any kind of cyber or electromagnetic attack.  During the conduct of the occupation of Crimea it was reported that the Russians resorted to using couriers to communicate between their subordinate units and their higher headquarters, effectively hiding their actions from U.S. signals intelligence.  It was a smart move and the U.S. should take note of this procedure.  The Russians should not be underestimated in their CEM capabilities.  They launched limited cyber attacks in the Georgian and Crimean campaigns and are suspects in the Agent.btz malware attack in 2008 where an unknown intruder hacked into Department of Defense classified networks and had access to them for several months until they were discovered.  This attack, also known as America’s “electronic  Pearl Harbor” , had such an impact on national security that it lead to the creation of U.S. Cyber Command.

“Fool Me Once, Shame On You.  Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me.”

The message communicated by the act of 2 Russian invasions within six years on Western Europe’s borders should now be clear to the U.S.  If the Army does not make any of the aforementioned force structure changes to complete an effective combined arms force stationed on the European continent that is capable of deterring and countering a Russian threat, then the existence of USAREUR in its current form begs the question, “so what?”  EUCOM and all of its subordinate commands needs to do more than Phase 0 operations or conduct humanitarian aid.  There is again a deterrent mission in EUCOM’s back yard that needs to be filled.  It’s safe to say that the Army should not plan for an invasion of China or troll about the Pacific with large formations in an expeditionary manner like the Marine Corps.  Let’s face it, the “Pacific Pivot” is wishful thinking in a world where all combatant commands need equal or greater focus to some degree or another and Pacific Command (PACOM) already enjoys more peace then most combatant commands do.  We cannot say the same for EUCOM, CENTCOM or AFRICOM.  The Pacific, like it or not, is suited primarily for Navy and Marine Corps operations and the recent Typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines’ clearly illustrates this dynamic.  Europe is primarily an Army and Air Force domain and the U.S. must provide effective capability and capacity for its ground combat forces in Europe if USAREUR is to be truly relevant in regards to a resurgent Russia.  Since we have limited resources and cannot tell the future, U.S. strategy has to be more akin to “whack a mole” where one watches the entire landscape and is ready to slug the first trouble spot that occurs as fast as possible without having to wait for the sledgehammer to arrive in your hand before the threat has passed.  The U.S. generally knows where all those trouble spots are that may require a sledgehammer (heavy armor) so it makes sense to keep the heavy armor capability there that is ready for action in the appropriate combatant commands.

 “We want Russia to be a partner but that is now self-evidently not possible under Vladimir Putin’s leadership.  He has thrown down a gauntlet that is not limited to Crimea or even Ukraine. The aggressive, arrogant actions of Vladimir Putin require from Western leaders strategic thinking, bold leadership and steely resolve-now.”  -Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, March 2014  

As the Army faces force cuts of 420,000 to 450,000, it must make tough but wise choices on what it can accomplish with limited resources.  When critics ask why we need a large army with tanks, world events like those in the Ukraine answer the question:  It is better to have and not need than to need and not have.  There is still “fat” in the Army and it needs to be cut out ruthlessly to capture efficiencies in order to produce a force with more “teeth” and less “tail.” “Empire building” in the Army for only the sake of doing so must be eliminated if it does not support the capabilities the Army and the nation need to deter potential adversaries like Russia.  Cutting this fat and eliminating empire building will enable a more robust USAREUR and a more relevant Army overall.   The recommendations made above reassign forces from other Army Service Component Commands and are within the realm of feasibility.  In times of austerity, the Department of Defense must divide its resources and conquer its requirements by using the Navy to check Chinese hegemony in the Pacific waterways while the Army resurrects a complete and composite combine arms capability in Europe.  The threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD) by nuclear weapons or a huge clobbering by twenty NATO armored divisions during the Cold War deterred Soviet aggression and kept the peace in Europe for fifty years.  An intruder looking to rob a house will probably pass by one that has someone standing on the porch holding a gun.  Likewise, when the Russian tanks are staring down the barrel of NATO tanks in a crisis, as they did at Checkpoint Charlie in the Cold War, the message will probably be received as it was in the past and peace, along with European territorial integrity, will be kept.  It’s an instinctive reaction that is part of the human need to live and survive with little pain and suffering and it supports the deterrent theory on its basic level.   The theory of a strong military to deter would be aggressors is as old as George Washington who stated, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving the peace,”   If not, at least USAREUR will be ready to respond in hours or a few days, rather than weeks or months, with a scalable and capable combined arms force that can deter or hold its own in a regional conflict as well as buy time until reinforcements arrive.

The views in this article are the author’s and do not represent those of the United States Government or the Department of Defense.

About the Author(s)

Brad Striegel is a serving Army Lieutenant Colonel with Field Artillery, Civil Affairs and Force Management qualifications and experience.  The views in this article are his own and do not represent those of the United States Government or the Department of Defense.


In this particular situation, Russia threatening Ukraine, I still don't understand why US conventional ground forces are needed, perhaps F-22s, EF-18s, AWACS and things like that yes, but conventional ground forces? There just aren't that many Russians available to occupy whatever part of the Ukraine they overtly take; and there are millions of Ukrainians, heirs to a tradition of insurgency that may take exception to their presence. The Russian forces available can probably go just about anywhere they want to in Ukraine but how long can they stay there? I don't see them being able to suppress a Ukrainian resistance, especially over the longer run and most especially if the West provides money and weapons to the resistance, even more especially if the West (meaning us) miraculously grew a backbone and established a no-fly zone over the Ukraine. Maintaining supply lines over hundreds of miles of Ukraine filled with upset Ukrainians who had lots of ATGMs would not be at all easy.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/26/2014 - 11:33am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---agreed---think we are in fact since 9/11 a bit over self reflecting.

Reference NATO---when 1989 and then 1994 occurred all including the US thought it was all over and decided to downsize and basically pull out of Europe and or ---this is the key piece via the OCSE agreements all of NATO went into a disarmament mode except the Russians who are actually still not in compliance with the OCSE disarmament agreements they even signed.

Then after following the US into the COIN misadventures in AFG they assumed as we did that the only future scenario was the DATE scenario with a "near peer" as the most threat.

Thus a new set of reasons to not invest when they were not investing more in the first place.

Bill---if this article is anywhere being correct then diplomacy has in fact failed---the Russian troop concentration that held up just 1km short of the Ukrainian border was not a practice "faint"---but rather an actual invasion run that got held up because the necessary "provocations" on the ground as attempted by the proRussians failed to materialize in time/actually did not materialize because the Ukrainian SF refused to engage them with civilians all around to justify the Russian troops crossover.…

All are now paying the price for the lack of a coherent defense strategy and a vastly reduced military---even we if sequester still goes on are down to 420K in end strength.

Bill M.

Sat, 04/26/2014 - 12:51am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Soft power gives us the moral authority to employ hard power when necessary so it still has value even in situations like this. Hard power doesn't work as a deterrent when you neither the means (forces) or political will to employ it. Keep in mind sanctions are not soft power, but a coercive tool that seldom works. It seems to be a knee jerk reaction by policy makers who don't think we have other options. I still find it odd we are so self critical while seemingly completely forgiving of our NATO allies who have under invested in defense for years.


Sat, 04/26/2014 - 12:19am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


It requires our elected leaders to take more action here then the Army. In the end the Army can only do what its told, like it or not. As for soft power, it is only good until someone starts shooting at you. Then you better hope you didn't only bring a knife to a gun fight. That's what I think we did with USAREUR in comparison to the Russians. USAREUR has a knife (light infantry), the Russian Army has a gun (a complete combined arms force, light infantry to heavy armor and artillery). The situation certainly begs a reassessment of the draw down. However we will still have armored brigade combat teams and fires brigades in CONUS at the end of the draw down and the Army can still shape stationing of its forces. The question again is are those kinds of forces better off serving our national security in CONUS or better off forward based in Europe? I think you know the answer.

Ned McDonnell III

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 12:02pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

It all comes down to timing. The coercive use of soft-power takes to long to deter or prevent immediate threats. The soft power of American exceptionalism -- of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- is our redeeming strength. But one that takes root over two generations in those places unaccustomed to these inalienable rights. Less elegantly put: how are you going to stop me today?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 2:08am

In reply to by Brad

Brad----that requires though the Army coming out of it's shock at reducing 3000 officers and the ACoS to stop "finding a soft landing" for them and focus on the near threat that has already called into question the entire DoD defense posture in Europe and all we have on the ground is a mobile infantry brigade?

So much for "soft power".

See news article below

"Ukraine Crisis Puts Pacific Pivot in Question"…

"Before and after meetings last week with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak urged the U.S. and NATO to bolster defenses in Eastern Europe, build a permanent base in Poland and reconsider the Pacific pivot. The rebalance of forces to the Pacific failed to take into account the need to protect NATO allies and offset Russian designs on eastern Ukraine, Siemoniak said in an interview with the Washington Post."

"Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot," he said

Like I've been saying...good time to put a armored brigade and field artillery brigade in Poland.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 10:13am

Bill M----here is a link depicting the bios of a number of the Russian "volunteers" in eastern Ukraine which are interesting to read and goes to the UW/political warfare strategy Russia is using.

Strange turn of events---Russian nationalist anti Semitics fighting against the Right Sector which Russia hates and constantly talks about as the cause for the Ukrainian conflict in a large number of press releases, in TV reports and in online videos.…

Biggs Darklighter

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:57pm

The decision to remove all tanks from Europe seems inexplicable. I hate to think that the USG, DoD and DA are so naïve or short sighted that they still wouldn't see the possible negative repercussions to such an action, especially in light of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. Even if there was an assumption that the Russians were "good guys" why remove heavy armor units from EUCOM when they are that much closer to AFRICOM and CENTCOM as the author states? Why did we not keep the heavy armor and artillery in Europe in the first place vs. keeping the light units? Lots of WTF questions here that Outlaw also asked.


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 11:42am

In reply to by Move Forward

MF wrote;

'Are you forgetting that the only thing that actually killed al Qaeda guys at Tora Bora was B-52 bomber strikes...not 5.56mm.'

No but I think you are forgetting the purpose of the mission at Tora Bora and what killed the al Qaeda guy. However having said that Abbottabad was a display of force not power. In this regard the 5.56 and the B-52 are the same - any influence they possess abates as quickly as the noise fades, the dust settles and the blood dries.

If on the other we had convinced the ISI to hand over OBL; that would have been a display of power. The difference is why DA is an important but small element of what SF is designed to bring to the fight.


Move Forward

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:16am

In reply to by RantCorp

<blockquote>I have difficulty understanding how armor, artillery, fast jets, attack helicopters, paratroopers or all the other elements of a ‘Team Yankee’ are going to counter an Unconventional War fighting opponent. I mean we now have a very expensive set of T-shirts in the closet that IMO attest to that folly.</blockquote>
Not sure what you are saying. Are you thinking that U.S.-assisted UW could stop Russian tanks and other armor from seizing and holding east Ukraine? Are you forgetting that the only thing that actually killed al Qaeda guys at Tora Bora was B-52 bomber strikes...not 5.56mm. Are you forgetting the "Apocalypse Now" syndrome that seemingly exhibited itself with MAJ Gant and the reality that genius cannot persist unaffected by the operational environment forever...and replacements are not always as good?

In contrast, it would appear that a digital soda straw and its long reach screwdriver buddy were pretty effective in the last couple of days in Yemen and could continue to be anytime al Qaeda is dumb enough to thumb its nose against the U.S. out in the open. Of course if we are dumb enough to leave Syria's airpower and air defenses intact, al Qaeda and other extremists <strong>can</strong> hide out in Syria, planning attacks unreached by our Reapers.

I just watched Ralph Peters makes the paraphrased statement that it would be nice if we could stay home in our own wonderful world and ignore the rest of the troubled world, but as we saw on 9/11, when we detach ourselves from the world, the world comes to us. You SF boys, as good as you may be, cannot solve all the world's problems.


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:05am

I have difficulty understanding how armor, artillery, fast jets, attack helicopters, paratroopers or all the other elements of a ‘Team Yankee’ are going to counter an Unconventional War fighting opponent. I mean we now have a very expensive set of T-shirts in the closet that IMO attest to that folly.

Many folks thought the US really ‘got it’ after VN but the last 13 years suggest 52,000 American and 2 million VN dead don’t amount to much when so much pork is to be gobbled up by what Ike smoked out so many years ago.

Afghanistan is the gold-standard in how to deploy a ruinously expensive conventional force against a force of barely trained UW opponents that cost those attempting to kill us next to nothing. Unlike VN where the PAVN approach required huge casualties the ISI have done it on a shoe-string and very few dead and wounded.

In my mind’s eye digitization has not only made the folly of the ‘Team Yankee’ approach much more expensive than the ‘punch-card war’ of VN it has also made defeat more inevitable – if inevitable defeat in VN could not have been made more obvious by the warnings put up front and centre by Ridgeway, Shoup, Gavin and many others within the pre-VN War military establishment.

The ‘digital soda-straw’ and its 'long-reach screw-driver' buddy of Iraq and AF have replaced the ubiquitous helicopters of VN as the harbinger of influence of the chronically deluded who fail to understand the difference between short-lived force and lasting power. The inescapable reality that commanding a networked computer is considerably easier than a serviceable helicopter (don’t even mention commanding a squad) suggests our failure to counter our opponent’s UW is not going to improve any time soon.

Just when we thought the equivalent of a division of light infantry armed with fertilizer bombs fighting us to a standstill was bad enough we are now reduced to staring at a few goons in ski masks invading a sovereign ally unopposed.

Maybe if we all turn our computers off for a week the problem will go away.


Ned McDonnell III

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 11:44am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I have posted this 2-3 minute snip-it in another thread.
The speaker is vague because the excerpt comes out in mid-thought. He is speaking about the I/O apparatus in Russia and the lack of one in the U.S. The whole discussion is worth a listening (one hour; seventeen minutes).…
What is interesting in this discussion-thread is that the U.S. pulled out armor from Europe at roughly the same time that it cancelled deployment of missile defense systems from Poland. At least the latter followed years of pressure from Russia.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 6:28pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---Russia while using a concise UW/political warfare strategy if one really looks at it---it has a three prong approach;

1. securing their long term military industrial Ukrainian base important to their Force modernization 2020 plans and with Crimea they have two additional shipyards plus they are looking at Odessa's shipyards in order to finish their projected 42 ship buildup
2. they have reestablished themselves as a superpower thus eliminating in their minds the US unipolar hegemony and rebuilding the old Czarist Russia in the process
3. are in the process of splitting the US from NATO and the EU since the US seems to be drifting back into containment something the EU/NATO with Germany in the lead is wanting to avoid like the pest

And they have frozen the new NATO eastern partners into a place of fear.

One has to admit their strategy has been in their eyes currently a success and they seem to think they can withstand the coming economic sanctions and being isolated---which if one reads their for internal consumption press releases Putin and Co. are already positioning the US as the big evil for damaging the Russian economy which will be forcing the population to tighten their belts---not the Russian bad financial management and inherent corruption.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 8:37am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---the comments are as the British say spot on---my concern is that even the WH does not get the dis/misinformation campaign that is spearheading this mixture of UW and political warfare---and maybe regular Army with wake up and see their creation of a separate I/O regular Army concept would/will fail in the current Ukrainian environment.

We are even dealing with one of their types on the Council side right now and it is interesting to watch him and his responses--why they picked the Council side is what I would like to understand though.

Would really like to see David go deeper (maybe via the War on the Rocks side as it is easier to publish on)into both using the Ukraine as an example as it is truly the one to watch 1) because it is there and now and secondly it is really functioning as David has alluded to thus a great case study as one can even watch the evolution cycles with moves and counter moves from all sides of the coin--no pun intended.

Man does the Ukraine take me back to the old SF days when we had it so right and it would have applied so well to the future had not the regular Army decided to destroy SF and pushed SF into the SR/DA world thus losing so much historical knowledge and experience (30 years of UW) which can never be replaced even with new UW focused training.

Remember even the CIA lost a massive amount of their own UW capabilities and are struggling to get them back as well.

Bill M.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 4:55am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Sadly I don't think many in the Special Forces study the strategic application of UW. Too many confuse our 7 phases as the strategy itself. They're good at executing it at the tactical level, but all too often to no particular end. Dave is right about the need for a more comprehensive approach to UW, it has been well past time to move beyond the empty rhetoric of "we're the only ones that do it," and get serious about learning how the U.S. government can use UW as a way to pursue ends in select cases using the Joint Force and interagency.

What we see with the Russians is a very sophisticated approach that has been well thought out. It can and hopefully will backfire, but right now it looks like they're going to keep Crimea. That will increase their coercive power with other states that border Russia who have confirmed their suspicions that the West likely won't come to their rescue. In this particular case the Russians have a lot of advantages (location, culture, language, a country that other nations won't risk war over, and I suspect a government structure better suited than ours for conducting UW), but it was still a well conceived operation to obtain strategic objectives.

I skimmed the article and want to dive into later since it deserves more than a skim. If you haven't seen the recent versions of Special Warfare Magazine there was an article recently on the I3M model for insurgency, but clearly relates to terrorist groups and social movements (Arab Spring), and social media enables that model to be executed at unprecedented speed and scale (the number of people it can reach). I think I have the order correct here: Interest, Identify, Indoctrination, Mobilization. In short a person gets exposed to a particular movement, cause, etc. (easy to do with SM or just surfing the internet). Researches it a little, and then identifies with it. Digs into deeper, may reach out, and gets indoctrinated, and now can be mobilized. All models are wrong, but they're still useful.

Fully concur that most conventional force members aren't even aware of what they're seeing the Ukraine because they don't that type of education/exposure to UW. UW to them is often little more than guerrilla activity. Here we're seeing a blend of paramilitary, auxiliary, and the underground at play with support from their conventional forces and foreign policy efforts. Quite fascinating, it is unfortunate that Russia of all countries pulled this off because they'll learn from it and use similar approaches in the future.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 8:42am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---will take our comments a step further----and incorporate David's comments on UW and political warfare.

This headline from today's NYTs kind of sums up the problem we are facing in the Ukraine to which we really have neither a strategy nor really understand just what we are seeing and it goes to exactly what David has been saying we need a national UW strategy that allows for a multiple varied approach.

Military Analysis Russia Displays a New Military Prowess in Ukraine’s East


Russian forces skillfully employed 21st-century tactics that combined cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops in its annexation of Crimea.

Bill---sounds right out of the SF days of the early 70s---at least the Russians understand David---not so sure that is a compliment though.

Reference the Russian I/O campaign---it is the best I have seen the early 70s as practiced by SF Psych War Bns. Have been dogging various sites and it is simply worth a doctorial thesis that is how good it is.


Wed, 04/23/2014 - 11:23pm

In reply to by Bill M.


Your point is taken and its related to what I'm driving at with the thesis; if the heavy armor isn't already in region were at the mercy of slower sealift, it delays or kills military options, we lose the initiative, etc.. Your right that we can't be everywhere but since we are going to be somewhere like Europe we need to give them the right forces instead of keeping them in CONUS. Especially when we know heavy armor is slower out the gate. The Kremlin clearly understands the nature of a large ground force as a deterrent to dissuade NATO intervention. We used to.

"While the Kremlin retains the option of mounting a large-scale intervention in eastern Ukraine, the immediate purposes of the air and ground forces massed near Ukraine appears to be to deterring the Ukrainian military from cracking down in the east and to dissuade the United States from providing substantial military support."…

Totally agree we need more SOF doing FID/UW. No shortage of work for them in Ukraine and other eastern European nations.

The best way to ensure timely access to the right forces is to have the right forces already deployed, or stationed in the area. We did this this in Europe. We can still do this in Europe, we have the resources, we just need to reorganize USAREUR to make it happen so we are not waiting but can act immediately or provide more deterrence. I think Napoleon put the value of speed in battle in the best context stated below.

"Go sir, gallop, and don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time."

Bill M.

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 5:20am

In reply to by Brad


I think you missed my point. I don't see the Army attempting to replicate the Marine mission of a forced entry over the beach, but rather they still need to move their heavy equipment via ship to locations where they're going to exercise or respond to a contingency. That is much different than attempting to replicate what the Marines do.

You and I view the map at Wikipedia very differently. First off most of Asia is covered by conflict and the map is clearly missing some areas such as Western China and Bangladesh. Fortunately Sri Lanka relatively recently ended their bloody civil war, but almost all countries are impacted by conflict to some degree except Japan and Australia. I have no idea how accurate the numbers are for casualty levels, but would be surprised if there wasn't approximately a 1,000 casualties a year in India alone due to separatist movements, terrorist attacks, and the Naxalite insurgency. The numbers tell a different story if you look beyond 2013 at the cumulative numbers also. I have no idea how anyone could get accurate numbers for the number of people killed in places like Burma/Myanmar for example, but the numbers for the most part are irrelevant when we're discussing the strategic importance of a particular conflict to U.S. interests. North Korea sinking a South Korean navy ship and killing around 30 is more significant strategically than a few hundred getting killed Sudan. The state sponsored terrorist attack on India only killed around 200, but if it led to a war between Pakistan and India it would have much more strategic impact than a civil war in Africa for example. What is at risk in PACOM is greater to our interests than what is at risk elsewhere. Sadly we can't afford to save everyone's house that is burning down, so even if you get upset the reality is we need to make tough choices. A lot of those houses that are burning down the U.S. military can't do much about. We need to get out of the mindset of thinking we have to "respond" to every brush fire, and get into a strategic mindset and carefully pick our fights.

SOF will still the principle response to these brush fires, and for the most part they'll conduct FID, in some cases they'll conduct combat FID. As you said earlier the conventional forces need to posture to protect our strategic interests. Asia is definitely one of those locations. As to your point how do we rebalance when we have these troubles elsewhere. First off I agree we have challenges around the globe, which is why I think the downsizing to the extent we're doing it is irresponsible. Second, we don't have to respond to every country that is on fire. There are no easy answers.


Tue, 04/22/2014 - 8:49pm

In reply to by Bill M.



I think we need to exploit each services core capabilities and not expend additional resources to duplicate them. Don't pretend to be something your not.

Yes, the Army has conducted more amphibious WW II. So what. They had to out of necessity as the Marine Corps couldn't do it all. Today we don't have excess amphibious vessels to put Army troops or helicopters on and there is no shortage of Marines to man Marine Expeditionary Units nor is there a shortage of Marine helicopters to load on those same vessels. That doesn't mean we won't or shouldn't use Pacific Army forces to deter, prevent, shape and win. We should. It does indicate that the Army will probably not be the first responders in a PACOM crisis because the geography is not conducive to exploiting their organizational structure and design, unless they are already there, like Korea.

I agree we need a credible defense in PACOM regardless of which services are providing it. I disagree that we have to apply it even more in PACOM because it will be at the expense of other COCOMs. I also think it's illogical to say your going to focus more on another region while your still at war in a different region. Good luck with that and the Iraqi's, among others, are finding this out the hard way when this happens. It also sends a green light to potential adversaries in those other regions. I liken this to playing poker (employing strategy is akin to high stakes gambling) and showing your opponents your hand. Maybe they would have folded before but now their going to double down because they have seen your hand and now know they will win.

Look at a map of flashpoints in the world and you'll find the Pacific with the least problems,

Now look at the Middle East, Africa, Eurasia and Mexico and your going to see a lot more conflict there. Conflicts with higher casualties that we are choosing to ignore, for better or worse, like Syria. PACOM isn't burning, but other COCOMs are. I'd be pretty mad if my house was on fire and when the fire trucks arrived they started spraying down the neighbors houses while they still could have saved mine.

Andranik Migranyan, currently an adviser to the Vladimir Putin administration, summed up as to what happens when you put less emphasis on other regions/potential adversaries, he said:

“We have new armament, new army, new training. It’s very strange you are not following what’s happening.”

Actually, it's not that strange when you think about it.

Bill M.

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 5:24am

In reply to by Brad


Fair enough, and quite simply the same points you made for a credible Army presence in EUCOM apply even more in PACOM.

"EUCOM and all of its subordinate commands needs to do more than Phase 0 operations or conduct humanitarian aid. There is again a deterrent mission in EUCOM’s back yard that needs to be filled."

First off, part of the reason we do Phase 0 operations is to contribute to deterring our adversaries by strengthening our alliances and partnerships, demonstrating our will to stay engaged in the region, etc., what is now called building security in the QDR. Of course credible deterrence must be supported by having the right capabilities forward postured, which even very important in PACOM due to the size distance factors associated with the AOR that covers slightly more than have the planet.

"It’s safe to say that the Army should not plan for an invasion of China or troll about the Pacific with large formations in an expeditionary manner like the Marine Corps."

I would be hesitant to say it safe to say anything regarding about what we may be required to respond to or how we'll respond. Our political leadership will determine that. I recall many young officers who thought our war in Iraq was over in May 2003 and were ready to go home because it was safe to say we're not staying. As for floating around the Pacific like Marines, that grossly misrepresents certain concepts being considered, and it ignores our history. The Army has done more amphibious operations than the Marines. It is not a matter of competition, the fact of the matter is the Army still needs to retain the ability to project force from the maritime domain, just like we did for both wars against Iraq. The Marines provide a unique capability that we shouldn't compete with, and that is the ability to bring a combined arms team to the fight from the sea to achieve limited objectives for a limited duration of time. If it is going to be something larger or of longer duration the Army will be required. I don't think the Marines or Army leaders would argue with that. Depending upon the location the Army will have to move its kit by sea to get there.

"Let’s face it, the “Pacific Pivot” is wishful thinking in a world where all combatant commands need equal or greater focus to some degree or another and Pacific Command (PACOM) already enjoys more peace then most combatant commands do."

This seems to be the typical view of conventional service members who never really learn their AOR. The only conflicts they're aware of are the ones the U.S. are involved in. In PACOM that pretty much limits it to our support for counterterrorism operations in the Southern Philippines and standing by our South Korean allies. Somehow they miss the fact that are over 30 different insurgencies and separatist movements; and unlimited numbers of terrorist networks active in the region. Although JIEDDO notes there are more IED attacks (a sign that conflict may be present) in PACOM than any other AOR other than CENTCOM, that somehow seems to be missed. In addition to the above, the region is experiencing growing militarism, continued border conflicts (that often flair up in gun fights and border wars), and the increasingly dangerous territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.

"The Pacific, like it or not, is suited primarily for Navy and Marine Corps operations and the recent Typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines’ clearly illustrates this dynamic."

I wouldn't mind if this was true, but it couldn't be more wrong. You are incorrectly attempting to justify regional trends, national threats, and what is required based on current events. The crisis response in the Philippines only demonstrated that the Navy and Marines were the ideal force to respond to "this" crisis. Fortunately our national leadership doesn't cherry pick one example and make critical strategic assumptions. The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is real and it is based on strategic interests.

"Europe is primarily an Army and Air Force domain and the U.S. must provide effective capability and capacity for its ground combat forces in Europe if USAREUR is to be truly relevant in regards to a resurgent Russia."

Not unlike WWI and WWII if we have another major combat operation in Europe the Navy will have a critical role in securing sea lanes so we can sustain a fight there. We can't dominate the land domain if the Air Force doesn't dominate the air domain, and the Navy doesn't dominate the maritime domain. I also sense a legacy big army view of the world, where we only employ armor where it can maneuver in wide open areas in large formations. I recall the arguments on SWJ previously by old school armor advocates that were resistant to task organize as needed to support combat operations. We may only need a company of tanks in some situations, but that company could be decisive. Armor played a role in most wars and many battles in the Asia-Pacific, but it wasn't employed like it was against Nazi Germany or Iraq for good reason.

"Since we have limited resources and cannot tell the future, U.S. strategy has to be more akin to “whack a mole” where one watches the entire landscape and is ready to slug the first trouble spot that occurs as fast as possible without having to wait for the sledgehammer to arrive in your hand before the threat has passed. The U.S. generally knows where all those trouble spots are that may require a sledgehammer (heavy armor) so it makes sense to keep the heavy armor capability there that is ready for action in the appropriate combatant commands."

We can't tell the future, but we do know what is important to our national interests, and maintaining the "relative" peace in the Asia-Pacific region is critical not only to our national economy, but Europe's as well. The idea is to reinvest in the area now to promote relative peace. Part of that effort is deterrence and as you stated that requires a credible forward presence.

Where we may agree is that our rapid downsizing of the military while we're facing expanding security challenges across much of the globe is irresponsible.


Mon, 04/21/2014 - 7:26pm

In reply to by Bill M.


Having just come out of PACOM I'd say I have a fairly good understanding of the security situation there. It's not rocket science by any means and the Defense Strategic Guidance sums up the Pacific rebalance very well:

"We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will also expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests."

Implications are conduct Phase 0-more TSCP, ensure open access to the sea and air, deter North Korea, monitor China, etc.

If the arguments are poor, please enlighten me, because it sounds like you understand the importance of a significant and capable combined arms force in Europe and I could not have said it better:

"You cannot prove a negative, but it can be argued that our larger military presence in Europe since WWII enabled a period of stability, and as we pull out that stability is being challenged. It is only a correlation, but a strong one."

Bill M.

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:52pm

I found much to disagree with in this article, and it is clear that LTC Striegel doesn't understand the security situation in the Asia-Pacific. He is riding the recent alarm over the events in Ukraine to promote a poorly argued case for the need for more heavy U.S. forces in Western Europe. Despite what I believe is a poorly argued paper, I do agree with him that we a stronger defense posture in Europe.

U.S. leadership looked at the world with rose colored glasses after the Berlin Wall fell. Many leaders saw Russia as a potential partner and didn't see any threats to security in Europe. A return to the last war syndrome, a syndrome that never survives the test of time.

I don't think heavy U.S. armor forces would be effective in the current state of play in Ukraine, but that isn't the point. I suspect Russia sees the U.S. as the only credible nation militarily in NATO, and when we signaled Russia we were no longer serious about Europe when we rapidly downsized our force posture there. Putin has been pursuing a fairly aggressive strategy since he has been in power, with the situation in Ukraine only being the latest and most visible aspect of that aggression. It is also worth reminding people of the obviously, while it looks like this happened overnight, the more likely scenario is it has been planned for months very professionally.

Should we or shouldn't we postured in Western Europe (and parts of Eastern Europe)? The first argument is one that SECDEF Gates (I believe) made about NATO and Europe at large not being serious about investing in their national defense and enjoying the relatively free ride we provided them. Obviously Americans are tired of carrying our Allies who have the means to build a credible defense. One can't help but think that NATO would be completely useless as a military deterrent without the U.S., so for the U.S. does NATO make us stronger or weaker? Why should we care if Western Europe doesn't?

On the other hand, if Europe's security and stability is important to our national interests it is clear we don't deter Russia and other actors with tough words while simultaneously retreating from the continent. We're speaking loud and carrying a small stick. As for nuclear weapons, I doubt they were ever a deterrent for conventional military operations, since both sides assumed that nuclear weapons were a weapon of last resort tied to national survival, which is why we retained the capability to fight unconventional and conventional wars short of launching nukes (Vietnam, Afghanistan in the 1980s, Korea, etc.). When you take the nuclear option off the table in Europe and removing a good portion of our conventional forces we may have given a green light to Russia to pursue their goals of expanding Russia's borders.

Say what you will, but a nation that puts troops in harms way (U.S. in Germany during the Cold War, in South Korea since the end of the war, and so forth), even if they're insufficient to defend that terrain without reinforcements sends a message that we have the national will to fight if required. You cannot prove a negative, but it can be argued that our larger military presence in Europe since WWII enabled a period of stability, and as we pull out that stability is being challenged. It is only a correlation, but a strong one.

Maybe the U.S. shouldn't have to pay for this all, but what is the cost to us in the long run if we don't? It is a burden to us in many respects to be a superpower and global cop, and our leaders need to decide we if want to continue with that burden. If not, then we should be prepared for the world that follows.

Move Forward

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 8:18pm

In reply to by JPWREL

<blockquote>In Cold War Europe, deterrence was based upon the existence of an American and Soviet nuclear capability certainly not American ground forces. Europeans especially Germany realized that should it come to war that NATO’s ground forces were essentially a sacrificial lamb leading to a nuclear exchange.</blockquote>
Let's say you are a group of 3 heavily armed thieves driving around looking for a house to rob trying to discuss what to do except you speak different languages and are a bit drunk:

House 1: Empty driveway, one car in the garage with a "Support gun control" bumper sticker, no security company signs, and no dog barking in the house?
House 2: Parked pick-up truck with NRA stickers and a rifle in the window, 2 Rottweilers howling, bars on the window and burglar alarm stickers, well-lit exterior, and a gun cabinet in the living room.

What if all the houses look like House 2? I was in Germany in 1975 as an enlisted man and again between 1982 and 1984 as an officer. You might have a point in '75 and in '82. By 1984 with Abrams, Bradleys, Apaches, Blackhawks, Patriots, and MLRS starting to fill the divisions, it was a different story. Are you feeling lucky punksky? Did you see the 82 to 0 exchange rate Israel exhibited in Syria in 1982 against Soviet-designed aircraft? I also seem to recall reading something about a neutron bomb that some neocon Jimmy Carter had developed.

In Cold War Europe, deterrence was based upon the existence of an American and Soviet nuclear capability certainly not American ground forces. Europeans especially Germany realized that should it come to war that NATO’s ground forces were essentially a sacrificial lamb leading to a nuclear exchange. This was precisely the reason that Europeans could not be encourage to achieve spending levels on their militaries that the Americans desired.

Today, the situation is that the nuclear weapons remain but the large key European elements to NATO would likely not be enthusiastic about a return of large American ground forces thus the American influence that comes with those forces. They have different relationships with Russia today than during the Cold War and have developed more independent foreign polices that are considerably less attached to Washington’s direction. Translated that means that the strongest European powers have much larger stakes in their economic relationship with Moscow than the US does thus are less likely to be moved by American bombast and even less keen on American direction.

Time has passed, states have evolved and while circumstances may seem similar to the Cold War era they are only so superficially. American strategic credibility has been damaged over the past decade along with the American military’s utility. This along with America’s abuse of intelligence gathering among our more important allies has left them less than impressed with the quality and trustworthiness of our leadership. This adds up to a situation where nations like Germany will no longer be treated like a dog on a leash but pursue what they consider a sensible policy of moderation and not just automatic obedience to Washington’s whims.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 10:31am

While the article is interesting it misses a key series of questions;

1. who made the decisions to downsize the Force that was assigned to USAREUR and EUCOM
2. who made the decisions to remove all armor out of Europe
3. who made the decisions to close down a vast majority of the support infrastructure
4. who/why was the pivot out of Europe simply signaled to Europe via a speech and did not the US senior leaders think that Putin did not understand the message of that speech
5. who determined that the future training scenarios should be around DATE and the Force would never see more than near peer competitors

Why has not the Russian Army and therefore Putin been held to the OCSE disarmament agreements which they have still have not adhered to while NATO on the overhand did in fact disarm especially the armor side of the house.

Why was not Russia held to their violations of a land based cruise missile system which is in violation of the existing INF?

Was not the strategic theory of the DoD literally for years the ability to fight a two war front conflict---we are not even able to mount even a defensive posture in Europe outside of aircraft so was the two war front an illusion for so many years.

To argue that NATO could do more overlooks the fact that NATO downsized as well and were simply following the US lead.

The author is correct Putin has been signaling his aggressiveness since 2008 and yet we the US simply plowed ahead in the world thinking Europe was fine.

While the author is correct in a majority of the article-- with the current force drawdown and budget reductions I really doubt DoD will do anything the author mentions.

Why---the same decision makers behind the overall force reductions in Europe and the pivot out of Europe feel the world can be addressed via "soft power".

Which Putin has nicely shown to be a failed thought process.

Rearming and sending heavy forces back into Europe demands at least a strategy and I am afraid we will not be seeing one in the coming months if there is one ever developed.

David Maxwell has written often here about UW and political warfare and the combination of the two.

Until the current WH and DoD understands the two we are dead in the water and Putin keeps right on swimiing.


Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:26pm

In reply to by Move Forward


I'm familiar with the 101st's successful Apache deep attack in Iraq following the 11th CAB's failed deep attack. The point was that heavy artillery was available in Iraq to provide SEAD. EUCOM does not have such artillery capability to support it's CAB. It would have to wait for it to deploy from CONUS, limiting EUCOM's deep strike military options for crisis response in that region.

The second point is that even with the capability on hand, poor planning or compromised OPSEC can doom the operation, as the 11th CAB's deep attack illustrates.

As for the Army's airborne (paratrooper) capability, we have way too much than what we utilize. The U.S. has not dropped anything larger than an airborne brigade since WW II. I would argue that is all we need in the entire Army. If needed, we can get paratroopers anywhere in the world fairly quickly. Can't do that with tanks. When it comes to armor vs. airborne units stationed in Europe I'd take armor units without thinking twice, because I'll have the 82nd standing by in the GRF anyway.

Move Forward

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 8:39am

<blockquote>The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army must reconsider assigning heavy armored forces back in EUCOM and get back into the deterrent business with Russia as it had done so well during the Cold War.</blockquote>This is bottom line that history would deem as obvious but that seems to be heavily resisted by the current administration. His points about the need for long range MLRS fires also are prescient, however, the denigration of airborne and aviation forces seems unnecessary.

<blockquote>The 11th Aviation Regiment’s failed deep attack at the battle of Najaf, Iraq is testimony to how vulnerable low and slow flying aircraft of any type can be in an air assault of any kind. The unsophisticated Iraqi air defense involved observation posts/listening posts, cell phones, city light signals and Iraqi’s firing their machine guns straight up into the night sky. Lightly armed paratroopers floating down to the ground in such a crossfire are even more helpless until they land.</blockquote>

Look at "On Point" and note that the 11th Aviation deep attack (now called interdiction) was forced prematurely with inadequate fuel to take any but direct paths to objectives. Position areas of artillery that were too large also forced some flight paths. Several days later, the 101st Airborne conducted a similar Apache raid with far greater success and minimal damage illustrating that our Army learns from its mistakes often made through combat inexperience. The second raid had better timed SEAD and well coordinated CAS. More importantly, in both cases the mere threat of attack aviation forced Iraq's forces into more of a hiding posture that accelerated armored BCT advances.

<blockquote>The Airborne’s relevance in unified land operations has been rendered nearly obsolete since the advent of rotary wing air assault equipment and doctrine developed after World War 2. The Army’s airborne capability has been marginalized so much that Ft. Bragg stood up its own air assault school in 2013. Additionally, increased anti-access, aerial denial (A2AD) capabilities make large scale airborne assaults a fool hardy and nearly suicidal endeavor now more than ever.</blockquote>

Forward presence Stryker elements along with the airborne BCT would appear tailored more to rapid response elsewhere outside Europe. Recall the 173rd Airborne raid on Bashur, Iraq during the first OIF. Strykers probably could have made that raid even more effective along with task organized heavier armor as LTC Striegel suggests. The problem with airborne raids is the lack of stealthy airlifters. You would think that the USAF would see the value in that capability to seize airfields early and resupply ground forces more safely for aircrews.

It would not appear that difficult to modify the LRS-B to create a variant for airdrop of SOF personnel and supplies. However, the Army might need to help the USAF fund that requirement which would be difficult in the current budget environment. An alternative would be that instead of 100 LRS-B that are single purpose aircraft, that 50 be created for bombing-only, and another 50 be dual-purpose airdrop and bombing platforms with slightly less stealth.

A Stryker BCT probably also was the result of the extensive desire to save money and maneuver damage in Germany. The memory of the Balkans where heavy armor was not as suited to peacekeeping and enforcement no doubt was on someone's mind. That was reinforced in Iraq as was the collateral damage nature of artillery in the vicinity of urban terrain and civilians.

However on the open plains of the Ukraine, not far from the WWII famous tank battle at Kursk, MLRS fires would be highly effective when backed up by future F-35 air interdiction, AH-64E interdiction, and armored BCT combined arms battalions positioned in Poland and other NATO nations adjacent to the Ukraine. Of course such conflict would never occur, but the fact that it could be effective in stopping armored advances is the very nature of the NATO deterrence exemplified for 60+ years before we practiced wishful thinking.


Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:19pm

In reply to by Morgan


I think we should expect our European allies to provide armor capabilities but the U.S. will probably have to lead them by example.

Even though European forces are downsizing as well, shouldn't we expect European forces to provide the armor capabilities you are advocating before we send in ours?