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Posted on Jul 26, 2015 in Current News Jack McMasters would have picked up on

Just like this content, 4th Armored Division used to prepare for a Russian invasion up on the Iron Curtain at Grafenwöhr, today’s U.S. Army is helping our Latvian allies be ready in the event of a Russian invasion. Surely Jack McMasters would have noticed this article about Operation Saber Strike:


NATO Refocuses on Kremlin, Its Original Foe

New York Times JUNE 23, 2015


Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times



CAMP ADAZI, Latvia — After years of facing threats far beyond its borders, NATO is now reinvigorating plans to confront a much larger and more aggressive threat from its past: Moscow.

This seismic shift has been apparent in military training exercises in this former Soviet republic, which is now a NATO member and on the alliance’s eastern flank, bordering Russia . . .

On a recent day, Latvian soldiers conducted a simulated attack on dug-in enemy positions in a pine forest here as two United States A-10 attack planes roared overhead and opened fire with 30-millimeter cannons . . . to show resolve on the new front between NATO and Russia, the heir of the Soviet war machine.

Lithuanian and American soldiers at the start of the exercise, intended to show resolve on the new front between NATO and Russia. 

Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times


“If the Russians sense a window of opportunity, they will use it to their advantage,” said Estonia’s chief of defense, Lt. Gen. Riho Terras . . .

The military drills that unfolded here, part of a series of exercises planned over coming months to demonstrate the alliance’s readiness to confront Russia . . .

This week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter . . . confirmed plans to position heavy American tanks and other weaponry in the Baltics and Eastern Europe . . . and strong protests from Moscow that coincided with an announcement by President Vladimir V. Putin . . .

Revising Strategies

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and its role in the war in eastern Ukraine, has already resulted in what NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, recently called “the biggest reinforcement of NATO forces since the end of the Cold War.”

. . . in February, NATO announced that it would set up six new command units within the Eastern allies and create a 5,000-strong rapid reaction “spearhead” force.

 “During the Cold War, we had everything there in the neighborhood we needed to respond,” said Julianne Smith . . . We haven’t gone through the muscle movements of a conventional attack in Europe for decades.”

NATO’s steps, and its deliberations over future ones, have exposed internal tensions within the alliance over the extent of the threat Mr. Putin’s Russia poses. That, in turn, has colored the debate over how vigorously the allies should prepare.

NATO’s response to the events in Ukraine has required a shift in strategic thinking as profound as the one that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the alliance’s main adversary suddenly no longer existed. For years, the Russia that emerged from the Soviet ruins seemed destined to be a partner if not an ally, something Mr. Putin himself did not rule out when he first came to office in 2000.

A confidential assessment of the risk of Russia destabilizing the Baltic States is expected to be presented at the NATO meetings this week. But the potential for such an attack has implicitly been the focus of much of the training and planning going on in places like this.

In private and in public, some officials and commanders argue that much more is needed . . .  It is time . . . to consider significant deployments of heavy weapons in Eastern Europe, brushing aside the worry that such a move would provoke Russia.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of United States Army forces in Europe, said in an interview, “I am sure they want to create doubts in the minds of some members of the alliance that the other 27 members won’t be there for them.”

The rising tensions between NATO and Russia coincide with a sharp decline in the United States military presence in Europe: to 64,000 troops now, including just 27,000 soldiers, from more than 400,000 at the height of the Cold War. Other nations’ militaries have shrunk, too. Britain now has a smaller army than during the Crimean War in the mid-19th century.

A Message of Solidarity

Even before the annexation of Crimea, NATO had watched Russia warily.

More than 6,000 troops from 14 allied nations — three times the number of soldiers that joined the same exercise two years ago, before Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine — conducted the annual Saber Strike training exercise in the Baltics and Poland that ended Friday.

On a brilliant, sunny day this month, 150 Latvian infantry members fought across a sandy pine barren to seize locations defended by Atropians, a fictional foe played by Gurkha soldiers of the British Army. Both sides traded simulated artillery and rocket fire, before the Latvians dashed from the woods and used smoke screens as cover to seize their targets. The A-10 attack planes roared overhead. But what really snapped back the necks of Baltic and other European observers was the B-52 bomber, on call for any additional strikes.

For a United States military that has spent nearly two decades fighting insurgencies in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the tensions with Russia have young soldiers, many born after the Soviet Union collapsed, learning new skills and brushing up on an old adversary.

“It’s not lost on me or my soldiers where we’re operating,” said Lt. Col. Chad Chalfont, an Army battalion commander training at a former Soviet base in Rukla, Lithuania.

Colonel Chalfont, whose father served as an Air Force officer in an underground nuclear missile silo during the Cold War, said American and Lithuanian troops drilled together on mundane but critical tasks like talking on the same radio frequency. Lithuanian infantry troops also learn more complex skills, like operating together with American battle tanks for the first time in dense pine forests.

The threat to the Baltic nations, at least in theory, is acute. For the Pentagon, Mr. Ochmanek of RAND has run war games trying to anticipate how to defend the Baltics in particular, the most immediate concern for the alliance. “It’s not realistic to think they could defend themselves against a determined Russian attack,” he said.

There is a hope that deterrence will suffice to prevent Russia from moving, but many fear that Mr. Putin’s government could seek to undermine the allies by subterfuge, as Russia did in Crimea and is doing in Ukraine.