Saturday, April 4, 2015

Peace is over for the Baltic States

Thomas Theiner
in Euromaidan Press
The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the most endangered. Freed from the Russian yoke but 25 years ago and for centuries oppressed and enslaved by Russia, the Baltic people are most aware of the threat posed by Russia’s resurgent nationalism… or at least Estonia is, because Latvia’s and Lithuania’s defense preparations are ridiculous. They scream for help, solidarity and Western forces to defend them, but have way too few soldiers, way too small defense budgets and an amazing lack of urgency. Personally I believe that if within this year both do not rectify this situation, NATO should only defend them while on its way to stand and fight with Estonia.

Latvia, with silly grandstanding, which would embarrass every other nation, announced that for 2015 it will spend an additional €28 million on its defense… let that sink in: €28 million or in the words of Latvia’s defense minister Vejonis: “Boosting national defense capabilities is our priority, which is clearly visible in the increased 2015 budget.” Now Latvia spends 1% of GDP on defense. NATO’s target is 2%, but for a nation under threat it should be more like 3%. According to the EU commission, Latvia’s GDP in 2014 was €23.8 billion and by the end of 2015 it should be approximately €24.5 billion. If Latvia would spend the bare minimum on defense, namely 2%, it would spend at a least €490 million for 2015. It’s actual spending: €253.8 million.

Lithuania used to be a similar defense spending laggard, but this year it increased defense spending by over 30% and will now spend €424.5 million. Lithuania also re-introduced conscription. However, as Lithuania was spending the lowest percentage of GDP on defense in the entire EU, even after this increase its spending is still a paltry 1.11% of GDP. Estonia, on the other hand, always took defense seriously and continuously spent 2% of GDP and increased this to 2.05% for 2015. This year the smallest of the three Baltic nations will spend €412 million.

All three of the Baltic nations can spend more on defense. Their economies are growing; their national debts are low and their budget deficits well under the EU’s threshold of 3%. According to the EU Commission on 5 February 2015, Lithuania’s budget deficit was -1.4% of GDP and its national debt 41.8% of GDP, Latvia’s deficit was -1.1% and its debt 36.5% and Estonia’s -0.6% and 9.6%. Lithuania and Latvia could easily ramp up defense spending to 2%, especially as their corporate income taxes rates are 15%, which are the lowest in the European Union safe for Bulgaria. And radically raising defense spending is absolutely viable as shown by a guy named Vladimir Putin, who increased the Russian defense budget by 43% in his first year in office and by an average of 21% every year since.

If all the Baltic nations were as serious as Estonia and spent 2% on defense, then their combined defense budget would be €1.62 billion instead of the current €1.09 billion. But 2% is not enough. At the end of the Cold War, Germany was spending 2.8% of GDP on defense, South Korea will spend 2.5% this year and Israel 5.6%. Therefore, the Baltic nations should spend at least 2.5% a year on defense. That would amount to €1.83 billion a year or nearly €750 million more than now. With a defense budget of this size, the Baltics could finance the forces to withstand a Russian attack for the three to four days it will take the US Air Force to smite Kaliningrad and attain air supremacy.

But even with an increased defense budget, the Baltics will not withstand a Russian attack because of the insanely small amount of active and reserve troops they field. Israel fields 2,142 active soldiers per 100,000 citizens, Greece 1,008 and the most serious Baltic nation Estonia 418 active troops per 100,000 citizens. That is actually an exceptional high number compared to Lithuania’s 269 troops and Latvia’s 232 troops. Why should an American president ask his 425 troops per 100,000 citizens fight and die for Latvia or Lithuania, who don’t ask the same of their citizens?

The whole lack of seriousness of Latvia and Lithuania becomes evident when compared to Finland and Israel: Finland with 12% less population than the three Baltic nations combined fields six brigades in peacetime with 208 Leopard 2A4 tanks and an air force with 62 F-18 fighters, whereas the three Baltic nations field three active brigades with 0 tanks and 0 fighters. Israel with a population that is 32.4% bigger fields nine active brigades with over 2,000 tanks and over 400 fighters during peace; in case of war Israel will field an amazing 41 combat brigades, the while the Baltics will field at best 10 brigades during a war.

The Baltic States do not need to reach Israeli levels in active personnel numbers or field 1,677 active citizen-soldiers per 100,000 people as Switzerland does, but the Baltic Nations must increase their forces substantially. Estonia is already on the right path and aims to have 90,000 reserve forces by 2022. With such a high number of reservists Estonia will even overtake Israel and will be on par with the reserve levels of Finland. However, to its South Latvia and Lithuania are both undermining the brave work of Estonia by not fielding more troops. At least all three should field 600 active troops per 100,000 citizens and thus give them an active force of 37,000 troops, which is 5,000 more than the Russian troops garrisoned within 100 km of the Baltic States.

I group the Baltic nations together since the best way forward for the three is to merge part of their defense structure: a trilateral treaty binding Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to spend 2.5% of GDP on defense, obliging them to have 600 active troops per 100,000 citizens, forcing them to coordinate acquisition of equipment and establishing joint units for the most expensive equipment would create much stronger, more capable and harder to defeat armies. Right now the three countries waste immense amounts of money by going alone on everything. If they want to remain free, they need to stop this.

A few examples: together the three nations field 18 helicopters of 5 different types, thus needing 5 different training teams, 5 different maintenance teams and 5 different logistic supports units. Last year Estonia bought 44 CV90 tracked infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) from the Netherlands, while Latvia bought 123 CVR(T) from the United Kingdom. Two sets of vehicles with completely unrelated maintenance needs. If Lithuania will now buy something else all three countries will have to build up their own training, maintenance and logistic structure for their vehicles instead of one training center and one central logistic/maintenance depot. Also if the three nations coordinated and bought the same weapon systems together, the price per item would drop. But now the Latvian CVR(T) Scimitars have a 30mm cannon and the Estonian CV90 have a 35mm cannon, making even ammunition sharing impossible.

Next in Estonia’s plans is buying a self-propelled artillery system. If it buys it alone then it will be able to afford 24 at best. Lithuania’s artillery is also in dire need of modernization as the M101 howitzers it uses were produced between 1941 to 1953… Latvia uses an old Czech model, which cannot even fire standard NATO ammunition. Now if the three nations agreed to merge their procurement and agree on a common brigade structure, then they could acquire a modern and much more capable artillery system together. As together the three nations would buy up to 72 systems, all sellers would be very open to produce the system in the Baltic States, thus giving the three nations a chance to develop their own defense industries and thus spend their money on their soil. The brilliant Swedish Archer, the light French CAESAR, the tracked Polish AHS Krab or the American M109A7 – all of them could be partially produced and assembled in the Baltic States and with one system in use a single common training center will suffice. Spares and supplies – again buying in bulk will reduce the cost and having just one main depot will cut costs again. With defense spending at 2.5% and costs reduced by cooperating closely, it will be possible for the Baltic States to buy larger amounts of more modern equipment.

What the triple alliance members need: for their armies – tanks, tracked infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery, for their territorial defense units – wheeled infantry fighting vehicles and light howitzers, for their air forces – utility helicopters, drones and a medium-range air-defense system. What they do not need is more ships and a fighter wing. A fighter wing is highly expensive and with all Baltic air bases in range of Russian anti-air and cruise missiles, fighters either won’t be able to take to the skies or will be shot down within minutes. And if the Baltic nations ever invest in their own fighter wing, then Western NATO members would abandon the Baltic Air Policing mission. Therefore NEVER ever must the Baltics buy their own fighters. As for the Baltic Naval forces: the Russian Baltic Fleet is too strong and therefore a coastal missile battalion must suffice. Poland already employs the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile and the Baltic nations should acquire it too to sink Russian ships before they come near a Baltic shore.

But, like with other expensive and highly specialized equipment, the Baltic nations should first set up common battalions to employ this equipment. If they buy the Naval Strike Missile, then beforehand they should create a tri-national Coastal Artillery battalion. Such a tri-national battalion would field three Naval Strike Missile equipped companies, one Estonian, one Latvian, one Lithuanian, supported by a maintenance company and a supply company, with three platoons each (an Estonian, a Latvian and a Lithuanian platoon). During peacetime, the battalion would be managed by a tri-national command company, which will ensure that the three combat companies are well trained, maintained and equipped. If Russia attacks, the three companies, with their respective support platoons, will leave the battalion’s base and head to their nation to fight there.

With the same structure the Baltic nations should set up a tri-national helicopter wing with 24 utility helicopters in three squadrons that can deploy to their respective nations in case of war. Possible models are the American UH-60M Black Hawk and the European NH90. A common airlift wing providing tactical transport to all three nations can be set up with the same structure and a tri-national paratrooper battalion should be located right next to it. A HIMARS multiple rocket launch system with MGM-140 ATACMS missiles, if bought by the three nations together and managed in a common battalion, suddenly becomes a feasible weapon system. A UAV battalion, an Electronic Warfare battalion, even an air wing flying 12 South Korean KAI TA-50 Golden Eagle or Italian M-346 Master trainer aircraft would be a possibility. Unite and be strong or do your own thing and be weak and easy prey.

Most importantly, the three Baltic nations need a modern medium range air-defense system and tanks. The air-defense systems currently in service, namely RBS-70, Mistral, Stinger and Grom systems, do not reach higher than 4-5km and have a range of just 6-8 km. The three Baltic nations do not need a high-end long-range system like the SAMP/T or the MIM-104 Patriot as Putin won’t fire a nuke at the three nations and risk contaminating his own troops, country or main shipping lane. Naturally, if the US, pleased by the common Baltic defense alliance and the increase in Baltic defense spending, increases its Foreign Military Financing to the Baltic nations, then one could always ask to get a battalion worth of MIM-104 launchers and radars for a tri-national battalion. 

US politicians would love such a common battalion, but in case the US will not provide an anti-air system, either the Norwegian NASAMS 2 or the Swedish BAMSE must be on the Baltics’ shopping list. The NASAMS 2 can use a mix of IRIS-T and AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared homing missiles, and AIM-120 AMRAAM and RIM-162 ESSM radar homing missiles and a range of up to 40km and can hit targets 14km above ground. Likewise, the Swedish BAMSE system can hit targets up to 15km above ground and 20km away. Eight nations already field the NASAMS 2, including Norway and Finland, while the BAMSE is in service with Sweden. The big advantage for BAMSE is that both Lithuania and Estonia already operate BAMSE’s Giraffe AMB radar, thus making integration of the Fire Control Radar and missile launchers easy.

As for tanks, the Baltics would be well advised to opt for a light tank design as those are more agile than main battle tanks (MBT). MBTs weigh around 60 tonnes due to their thick composite armor while light tanks weigh 25-30 tonnes and are much cheaper to procure. Combining a light tank with an active protection system like the Israeli Trophy or the German AMAP-ADS would offer the same level of protection against anti-tank missiles and rocket propelled grenades as the thicker armor of MBTs, but at half the price. Two light tank models that would operate well in the Baltic States are the Polish-British PL-01, which is based on the Swedish CV90, and the CV90105, which is a variant of the CV90. Poland intends to buy a large number of PL-01 to equip its armored  forces and as Poland, like the Baltic States, also needs a large number of tracked IFV, all four nations should agree on a common tank and IFV design and then produce and maintain it together to reduce costs and improve interoperability. 

Fielding a large number of mixed units of light tanks with a 105mm canon and tracked IFVs, some of which armed with anti-tank guided missiles, would give Baltic Armies the ability to ambush and decimate Russian forces and then retreat into the vast forests of the three nations to redeploy unseen for the next strike (Lithuania’s soil is 33% forested, Latvia’s 42% and Estonia’s 50%). A mobile short-range air-defense system and an engineering vehicle built on the same chassis as the tank and IFV should be added to the aforementioned units to protect them from Russian attack helicopters and provide them with a vehicle capable to clear a path through the forests.

Ultimately, the defense of the Baltic nations stands and falls with their level of cooperation. Sweden has the easiest task: defend and hold Gotland, while Poland faces the unenviable task to fend off attacks on two sides: from Kaliningrad and Belarus, while at the same time being the main reserve force for the Baltics. Therefore, Poland has much higher financial, logistic and preparatory hurdles to clear before its military is capable to withstand each and every type of Russian attack. But as for the Baltics, nothing will give them as better chance to deter a Russian attack and in the worst case withstand it until help arrives, than combing their defense structures and leaving just operational command in national hands (for now).

All five nations under threat along the Baltic Sea will have to plan and prepare to fight on their own, as help from Western European nations is not something they can count on. Therefore, these nations, just like Romania and Ukraine, will have to prepare for the worst and with the current nationalistic hysteria sweeping Russia the worst is yet to come and it will come. Therefore either be prepared or surrender and acquiesce to living under the Russian yoke once more. I for my part say: Never!

This article is part of the article series Peace is Over, which also includes the following in-depth analysis of the current military capabilities and the required changes to defend Sweden and Poland:
  1. Sweden
  2. Poland

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Maritime Security: Make the right choice

Published in Maritime Security Review June 11, 2014

Rene Toomse, CEO, Aburgus Risk Management

An Aburgus team, having recently returned from a mission, told me a story. They were providing security from Galle to Richards Bay, their first time on this large bulk carrier. The Captain was happy with all the settings and told them about a previous security team from another security company. The team leader was from the UK and other team members were an Indian, Sri Lankan and Filipino. A true multinational team one could cheer about but the reality was far from happiness, not to mention effectiveness. 

The bored and somewhat frustrated team leader made his days go by harassing the Asian guards. Pointless orders, deprivation of rest, unreasonable dangerous assignments, like manning the monkey bridge in a storm and so on, were causing a lot of bad mood out there. Of course, the guards did not complain but their true ability to guard was offline most of the time – such was the impression of the Captain. So in case they had to encounter an attack by pirates, he was doubtful whether they could organize and fight with the integrity needed.

This is not a isolated story concerning the issues with mixed teams. There are known problems with some guards’ paperwork. It is not a rare occasion when a man’s CV states years of experience in Naval Special Forces and yet he holds a rifle like for the first time in his life. Very often “excellent English” means barely basic understanding of simple commands. But imagine now if a vessel with such a team comes under a serious attack by a bit more willing pirates, the famous slogan that “no ship carrying armed security has yet been hijacked” would easily end up in the trash.

Another dangerous trend is undermanned teams. Two guard teams are no longer rare. One vessel owner told me that charterer, who was responsible for security arrangements, once offered only one guard. “One is more than enough” – were the exact words according to him. He was smart enough not to agree to it.

There are always options for the vessel owner – to do it right or hire a replica of security. ‘Right’ means a team of the same nationals or at least from the same military culture (like NATO), a minimum three for short transits but certainly four guards for longer transits and larger vessels. It will cost a bit more but they are the most effective in real protection of the vessel and crew that is eventually the point of having a security team onboard. Here are some arguments to support the previous:

- Teams of the same nationality can communicate much better in stress situations. There are fewer chances for errors and misunderstandings. Different nationalities will have more possibilities for messing up that in stress situations can turn to disaster very quickly;

- Same nationality teams have had more options to learn and practice their actions; they share the same standards, cultural discipline and integrity. This will make them sounder on decisions and tactics. Mixed teams tend to meet and do quick familiarization on the vessel. There is no cultural bond, trust and same standard performance. This again will be a significant vulnerability in stress situations;

- One or two man teams are worthless from the point of view of security, no matter who they are. One man cannot stay alert 24/7, two men will lack tactical reserve as a backup. Imagine two guards repelling pirates who attack from both sides of the vessel. If one of the guards gets shot then another cannot cover the other side and the pirates will board. Once they have boarded, they will overpower the single guard very easy. The third guard is an absolute must have to avoid this type of situations. The fourth will come handy to take care of the crew mustering into the citadel and then backing up the rest of the team in a fight. The prime example of the grave violation of the same rule was the fatal incident with SP Brussels near Nigeria on 29 April.

There are some rules of thumb on maritime security to make it work. If they are broken, either by vessel owner or security company, it puts people and property at grave risk. There is also a reason why the security guards are usually required to have at least 5 years of military experience. It is a correct presumption that experienced men can act properly in case of an attack. Meanwhile, the militaries are not the same in most cases. Largely, one can say that NATO countries embrace the same principles that often are not the same with most of the other militaries. So assembling a team of mixed nationals will make the individual experiences, and summa summarum the team’s ability to use them effectively, worthless.

Protection of a vessel against armed attacks is a team effort and unavoidably needs to have a team of adequate size and with the similar experiences to withstand hostile fire and be effective enough to repel the attackers. Anything less than that is a hazardous game played with people’s lives. I hope evidence of this does not have to come via painful experiences, although we can already see them happening.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Officer Corps That Can’t Score

William S. Lind in The American Conservative

The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers, men such as Col. John Boyd USAF, Col. Mike Wyly USMC, and Col. Huba Wass de Czege USA, each of whom led a major effort to reorient his service. Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How the Weak Win Wars? A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict

Ivan Arreguín-Toft

No one had given Muhammad Ali a chance against George Foreman in the World heavyweight Championship fight of October 30, 1974. Foreman, none of whose opponents had lasted more than three rounds in the ring, was the strongest, hardest hitting boxer of his generation. Ali, though not as powerful as Foreman, had a slightly faster punch and was lighter on his feet. In the weeks leading up to the fight, however, Foreman had practiced against nimble sparring partners. He was ready. But when the bell rang just after 4:00 a.m. in Kinshasa, something completely unexpected happened. In round two, instead of moving into the ring to meet Foreman, Ali appeared to cower against the ropes. Foreman, now confident of victory, pounded him again and again, while Ali whispered hoarse taunts: George, youre not hittin, George, you disappoint me.”  Foreman lost his temper, and his punches became a furious blur. To spectators, unaware that the elastic ring ropes were absorbing much of the force of Foreman’s blows, it looked as if Ali would surely fall. By the fifth round, however, Foreman was worn out. And in round eight, as stunned commentators and a delirious crowd looked on, Muhammad Ali knocked George Foreman to the canvas, and the fight was over.
This fight illustrates an important yet relatively unexplored feature of interstate conflict: how a weak actor’s strategy can make a strong actor’s power irrelevant. If power implies victory in war, then weak actors should almost never win against stronger opponents, especially when the gap in relative power is very large. Yet history suggests otherwise: Weak actors sometimes do win. The question is how.

Read more: How the Weak Win Wars? A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why the Army should fire generals and promote captains

By Adrian Bonenberger, Published: February 21

As Army leadership ponders who and what to cut from its budget, the first groups in the crosshairs are the junior and mid-level officers. This is a logical step: To wage counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army expanded its fighting force, and now it’s time to draw down. What isn’t logical is that other ranks will largely get a free pass.
The Army, and the military overall, would be better served by retiring some of the generals, colonels and senior lieutenant colonels, and promoting the best captains, majors and junior lieutenant colonels into those roles.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Army stood at 480,000 soldiers. Over the next decade, it ballooned to 565,000 soldiers in 2011 and has since shrunk back to 528,000. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last summer that the Army needed to reduce its numbers to as few as 380,000, the lowest since before World War II. It seems likely that the Pentagon will adopt this number as its target for 2020. These cuts will overwhelmingly fall where the recent growth occurred: younger soldiers and officers, nearly all of whom joined to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Unconventional Deterrence Strategy

Mindaugas Rekasius
Naval Postgraduate School 
June 2005

This thesis examines a largely unexplored area of deterrence theory – unconventional deterrence. Unconventional deterrence is defined herein as “persuading the opponent not to attack, via threats of unconventional warfare, such as guerrilla resistance and terrorism.” It treats terrorism as a punishment strategy, through which the one deterring threatens to punish the aggressor’s population. Guerrilla warfare is a denial strategy, through which the one deterring threatens to protract a war and deny the aggressor his political objectives. This study questions the underlying hypothesis of deterrence theory which says that the balance of the opponents’ military capabilities is the basic determinant of successful deterrence. Rather, the hypothesis here is that the deterrer may deter the aggressor from attacking by adopting a strategy that makes the aggressor’s military superiority irrelevant. The present thesis focuses primarily on relatively weak states. Unconventional deterrence is explored as a means for a weaker state to deter a considerably stronger opponent.
This thesis discusses the requirements for successful deterrence, and the peculiarities of unconventional deterrence. As well, the dynamics of small wars are explored in order to unfold a paradoxical phenomenon: the possibility of an underdog’s victory in war.  Two  case  studies:  (1) the  Vietnam  War  of  1964-73 and (2)  the Afghanistan War of 1979-89 are explored as examples of the weak denying the strong their objectives.

Read more: PDF