The report, by the US based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which specialises in security policy, said that while a major conflict between NATO and Russia remains unlikely, “plausible paths to conflict exist that NATO cannot afford to ignore”. According to the report, entitled “Strengthening the Defense of NATO’s Eastern Frontier", NATO faces strategic and operational challenges that “threaten to undermine its ability to deter and, if necessary, defeat Russian aggression” along the Alliance’s eastern frontier.
Serious challenges remain, “especially where the potential for conflict is most acute and the NATO Alliance is most vulnerable: the Baltic region.” The report, which runs to some 64 pages, offers what is describes as a new strategy for “deterring and, if necessary, defeating Russian aggression” against NATO in the Baltic region, and makes recommendations for “enhancing the US forward posture in Europe and improving Poland’s military capabilities and force structure to support this strategy.”
The report suggests that enhancing the US military’s posture in Europe could undermine Russia’s “theory of victory” (that it will prevail in a limited conventional conflict with NATO) – which threatens the security of NATO’s eastern frontier – and strengthen deterrence. It recommends stationing additional forces and capabilities in strategic locations closer to the Baltic region so that the United States could lessen Russia’s time-distance advantage, mitigate the ability of Russian anti access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities to isolate areas it has targeted, and further demonstrate US commitment and resolve.
Turning specifically to Poland, the report says that a modernized, ready Polish military could convince Russian decision-makers that Poland is not an easy target and that its forces would pose a real challenge to a Russian invasion. In addition to defending the homeland, a modernized Polish military could support allied efforts to contest Russian attacks into neighbouring NATO states, degrade Russian A2/AD capabilities, and facilitate the rapid transit of US and NATO forces into and across Poland.
Particular recommendations to improve Polish military capabilities include improving military readiness through the intensity and realism of military training, investing in equipment maintenance, and increasing munitions stocks; higher capacity air and missile defences, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities; cyber and electronic warfare capabilities; territorial defense forces; and engineers; and modernising force structure, the capacity and resilience of command, control, and communications infrastructure.
Taken together, the authors of the report believe that US posture enhancements and a modernized Polish military capability could create synergies that would further enhance deterrence and defense. Together, these efforts would enhance the cohesion and interoperability of U.S. and Polish forces, possibly fostering the confidence and political will necessary for Warsaw to use its forces beyond Poland’s borders to defend Alliance territory. None of which will be lost on the current Polish government for whom close ties to the US and an improved military are foreign policy and security priorities.
Author: Nicholas Richardson