Recent events concern many that Europe is getting closer to war with Russia. The European Leadership Network (a think tank) recently argued that Russia and NATO are actively preparing for war with each other. It argued that the build-up of military tension in Europe since the end of the Cold War is increasing the possibility of war and that rival exercises by the Russian armed forces and NATO have led to several near-miss incidents that could result in confrontation between the two sides.
If one adds to this the increasing military activities in the Ukraine where the separatists and the Ukrainian government are daily increasing the artillery fire engagements to other events in the area the probability of direct confrontation increases. Ukrainian officials claim to have 60,000 troops in the field against an estimated 54,000 Russian forces in the Donbas. However Russia is causing concerns else- where. Russia has made numerous pronouncements that contain nuclear threats. Russian aircraft have buzzed American and NATO ships in the Black Sea. It has moved missiles into the Crimea and Kaliningrad. Putin fears a NATO invasion and thus Russia has built up a formidable anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) force along the Russian border. Recently Russia claimed exploration rights in the Arctic and to bolster its claims conducted major Arctic exercises and continued its probes against northern European and American targets.
The US Army, whose outgoing Chief of Staff claimed that the cuts to the force were getting dangerously close to being too deep, has recently stated its desire to send a second brigade’s worth of tanks, Infantry Fighting Vehicles and other heavy equipment to Europe. It also wants to dedicate an entire division to exercises, training and assurance missions in Europe amid growing concerns over the possibility of Russian aggression. There is “a growing recognition that this is not a spike in bad behavior by President Putin, but that this represents a much longer term set of challenges that we’re going to deal with,” LTG. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said during a meeting with reporters at the Pentagon.
As previously reported, the Army began building a brigade-sized set of equipment in Europe for use by forces sent to the region for exercises and training events with partner nations. The equipment will be split into several countries, including the three Baltic States, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany, for regular use by incoming rotational forces. Most of the equipment — about 1,200 vehicles in all, should arrive in Europe by December.
The second set of equipment, known as Army Prepositioned Stocks, would be reserved for contingencies. Reports are that the Army is considering dedicating the 4th Infantry Division to Europe as part of the service’s regionally-aligned forces concept. This seems surprising given the history of the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, KS being the lead force when reinforcement of Europe was a mission during the cold war.
United State Army Europe will continue to rely on rotational forces as it works to meet the demand for troops in the region. The tension in the area means that attack helicopter assets will be deployed for exercises. It should also be noted that the forces currently deployed in Europe avoided the cuts that are scheduled for almost every other unit in the Army.
NATO countries are increasing their military expenditures. Time will tell, but the question is whether there are numerous indicators of a slow motion movement towards war in Europe? At least some believe that only prudence will prevent this from happening.