United States European Command (EUCOM) changes its strategy and finds Russia is the new great threat to security and peace in Europe. Meanwhile, a RAND Corporation study sees the Baltic states as indefensible, and suggests the deployment of three armored brigades in the area.
The strategy update defines six priorities of the American forces in Europe. While enabling NATO, preserving the US’s strategic partnerships, countering transnational threats, and ensuring the readiness of forces were part of earlier strategies, EUCOM’s new top priority is to deter Russian aggression.
Commander of US European Command General Philip Breedlove said that the newly updated theater strategy addressed the changes happening in Europe, and helped the US’ forces adapt to emerging challenges.
The new priorities also address issues like mass migration, financial crises, cyber attacks, and a potential epidemic, as US military news publications like eucom.dodlive.mil and the Military Times reported.
There are less than 65,000 US military personnel left permanently stationed in Europe. As the new theater strategy stated, the current size of the military presence requires difficult decisions on how best to use its limited resources in the changing European security environment.
It also found that the temporary presence of rotational forces couldn’t replace an enduring presence that was tangible and real. In no unclear terms, the report stated that “virtual presence means actual absence.”
Just in time to match the publication of EUCOM’s new strategy, the RAND Corporation, an American military and global policy think tank, projected that the United States and NATO couldn’t defend the Baltic states’ independence in case of a Russian attack.
Their analysis found that during several war games in 2014 and 2015, US forces in cooperation with military units of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania couldn’t hold off the advance of a Russian invasion force.
It would take the Russian military no more than 36 to 60 hours to reach Tallinn and Riga. “Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” the report stated.
A projection of the events following such a defeat show no more promise. NATO would reorganize and mount a counterattack, which would then prompt an even more forceful response by Russia.
Such a scenario was played through as the first option, while a second option would involve threatening Russia with nuclear strikes. A third option would lead the alliance into a Cold War-like standoff, admitting temporary defeat and leaving the Baltic states to the invading forces.
To avoid any of these developments, the RAND Corporation suggests pre-emptive measures, not surprisingly involving an increased number of troops in the area. According to the think tank’s findings, three heavy armored brigades, backed up by artillery and air force units, would provide a sufficient deterrent and could “prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states.”