Report Authors Discuss Challenges of NATO’s Reinforcement of the Baltic Region

In the event of a major crisis or war in the Baltic region, NATO’s reinforcement of the local armed forces and enhanced Forward Presence battlegroups would require the rapid movement of large and heavy military formations across Europe.

In their report “Until Something Moves: Reinforcing the Baltic Region in Crisis and War”, a collaboration between ICDS and CEPA, Lieutenant General (retired) Ben Hodges, Tony Lawrence and Colonel (retired) Ray Wojcik point to the legal and procedural obstacles, the limited capacity of infrastructure and a lack of clarity in coordination, command and control that could present difficulties to armed forces moving to the region.

Hodges and Lawrence presented and discussed these issues and possible solutions at a webinar on 7 May 2020. The event was introduced by Sven Sakkov, director of the ICDS and moderated by Martin Hurt, research fellow at the ICDS.

What needs to be done?

NATO has not rehearsed large-scale reinforcement for decades. The US exercise Defender-Europe 20, has unfortunately been scaled down due to the COVID-19 crisis. NATO and the Allies should:

Sort out the procedures: NATO and the EU have taken important steps in this direction. They should continue to make efforts to reduce potential barriers to movement created by cross border and in-country movement regulations, customs and taxation requirements, and other administrative and legislative procedures.

Invest in railways: railways should be the primary means for military movement, certainly for heavy equipment. Allies need to put in place arrangements to ensure that sufficient rolling stock is available, at short notice, to move large numbers of heavy military vehicles.
Upgrade road networks: the road network will still be needed to maximise traffic volumes and to provide redundancy in transportation operations. Key routes must be able to bear heavy military loads.

Optimise funding: make use where possible of regional defence and other cooperation formats, such as the EU military mobility initiative, the Bucharest 9 and the Three Seas Initiative, to advocate for and fund infrastructure projects that also support military movement.

Sort out the command, control and coordination: there is no clear picture among operators as to how different movement agencies would work together during crises and how movements would be prioritised to serve the operational needs of the Joint Force Commander.

Invest in the Joint Support and Enabling Command: this new command potentially has a key role to play in advance preparations for military movement and in resolving movement issues during crisis. It must be adequately staffed and provided with all the information that will be necessary for it to fulfil its role.

Exercise: stress-test legal and procedural systems, infrastructure, and coordination, command and control, through exercises in the Baltic region. Table top exercises and scenario-based discussions will, meanwhile, help to define command, control and coordination relationships.
Work together: NATO and the EU should share more information and together ensure that transport infrastructure is suited to military needs. Together NATO and the EU can play a game-changing role in mitigating the difficulties of rapid military movement.

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