THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND NATO TROOPS TO DEFEND THE ALLIANCE'S EASTERN FLANK AGAINST RUSSIA (19 03 2023
Political strategic level
NATO plans to accelerate its efforts to build up its military capabilities on the eastern flank of the Alliance in the coming months, with three hundred thousand troops that could be deployed immediately if Russia decides to expand the war beyond Ukraine. However, for this to be more than just a plan on paper, the Alliance's leadership needs to convince the member states to contribute jointly by various means: troops, infrastructure, organised and secured logistics, continuous training. And above all, the countries have to agree on huge quantities of expensive weapons, equipment and ammunition.
Already the major NATO countries are worried about their stockpiles of ammunition, and with Ukraine continuously supplying huge amounts of arms and ammunition, there is a risk that not all NATO allies will keep their promises to contribute to the new alliance's plans.
"If there is no one who organises the party and doesn't tell everyone what to bring, then everyone brings potato chips, because potato chips are cheap and easy to come by," said J.J. Townsend, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European and NATO Policy. "Nations (member states)", he added, "tend to bring potato chips".
This is a challenge that NATO has faced in the past and that has become a permanent problem for the Alliance. The large-scale war caused by Russia is now in its second year, and while the US and EU plan to stockpile weapons and ammunition quickly, replenishing their stocks will inevitably take time.
The new NATO model will require a force of around 300,000 troops on permanent alert and training. Levels of readiness/responsiveness will vary. The planned highest readiness capability, capable of entering battle within 10 days, will require around 100,000 troops from Poland, Norway and the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), said Heinrich Brauß, former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Force Planning. They may also include the multinational battle groups that the Alliance has already established on its eastern flank. The rest of the force, which would be ready to deploy from countries such as Germany, should arrive within 10-30 days if necessary.
However, this process seems to be complex and difficult to implement. To move so quickly, even within a month, requires three times as many ready and rotational troops, equipment, training bases, military transit arrangements, all of which require a difficult-to-estimate amount of money. Many allies will have to significantly increase their defence spending and buy more weapons, ammunition and equipment.
Ben Hodges, former commander of the US Army in Europe, said that "readiness" basically means that "you have everything you should have to do a mission assigned to a unit of a certain size".
"An artillery battalion <...> has to fire X number of rounds per year to maintain its proficiency level," he said. A tank battalion has to hit targets, react to a variety of situations and "demonstrate proficiency on the move, day and night, hitting moving targets".
"All of this is very challenging," he said, pointing to the need for ranges and ammunition, as well as maintaining proficiency as personnel change over time. "Obviously it takes time, and it's expensive."
And yet, here we are optimistic. Talking about the need for such a force is a prerequisite for its creation. Obviously, these plans are in preparation for the Vilnius Summit, where the main issue on the agenda will be how to prepare adequately for Russia's shattering.
Hours after the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Commissioner for the Rights of the Child, the large-scale Russian attacks continued in Ukraine. Strikes were launched on several fronts, including the capital Kyiv and the western region of Lviv. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city administration, said that Ukrainian air defence had shot down all drones targeting the Ukrainian capital, while Maksym Kozycki, governor of the Lviv region, said yesterday that three of the six drones had been shot down, while the other three had hit an area bordering Poland.
In the southern Kherson region, seven houses and a kindergarten were damaged, while in the Donetsk region, the shelling of 11 towns and villages in the province left one person dead and three injured. Further west, Russian missiles hit a residential area in the town of Zaporizhzhya.
As terrorist Russia continued its war crimes in Ukraine, its internationally wanted war criminal Putin visited Crimea and Mariupol.
In Crimea, on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, Terrorist No.1 visited an art school and a children's centre located on the site of a historical park of an ancient Greek colony. In his speech here, the Barbarian stressed the importance of maintaining Crimea. "It is clear that security issues are now paramount for Crimea and Sevastopol", he said, referring to Crimea's largest city. "We will do whatever it takes to counter any threats."
On Sunday morning, Führer Putin made a surprise visit to Mariupol, the first trip by a Kremlin leader to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine's Donbass region since the war began. Mariupol, which fell to Russia in May last year after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war, was Russia's first and only major victory in this large-scale war. Mr Putin was flown to Mariupol by helicopter and then taken by car to several districts of the city, where he stopped and talked to the population.
Russian propaganda sources reported that Putin also met with the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Moscow's war in Ukraine.
The so-called grain agreement, under which Russia does not prevent the shipment of grain from Ukraine to poor and starving countries in Africa and Asia, was extended yesterday. The United Nations and Turkish President R.T. Erdogan announced the extension, but it is not clear how long it will last. The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine have demanded 120 days, while Russia has said it is prepared to accept 60 days.
For Russia, food is a weapon, just like oil, gas, migrants, unhappy people, protests and strikes. Any unrest in Western countries is Wagnerian opera to the ears of the Kremlin's henchmen.
It is the latter that is happening in Paris and beyond. People are protesting against President Emmanuel Macron's plan to raise the French retirement age from 62 to 64, and the streets of the French capital stink of uncollected rubbish during the sanitation workers' strike.
Virtually non-violent protests have also taken place in other French cities, including Nantes and Marseille, where protesters broke through the police and occupied the main train station for around 15 minutes. In the eastern city of Besançon, hundreds of demonstrators lit bonfires and burned electoral cards.
In Paris, police tried to restore calm after two consecutive nights of unrest and banned gatherings on the Champs Elysees and in the Place de la Concorde, where protesters burned an effigy of Macron in a bonfire on Friday evening as the crowd went wild with joy.
The Kremlin trolls are also working non-stop on the information front. Shortly after the train derailment in Ohio last month, which spilled toxic chemicals, anonymous pro-Russian accounts started spreading misleading claims and anti-American propaganda on Twitter, using Elon Musk's new vetting system to extend their reach and create the illusion of credibility.
The supposedly verified accounts spread Kremlin messages that the Ohio authorities were lying about the real impact of the chemical spill. The accounts stoked fears about pollution and health effects and sought to influence people to support Ukraine. Some of the pro-Russian accounts' claims were blatantly false, such as that the US media covered up the disaster or that environmental scientists on the scene died in a plane crash. Other messages were designed to scaremonger, such as unverified maps showing widespread pollution, predictions of an increase in fatal cancers, or reports of an unconfirmed mass die-off.
"Biden offers Ukraine food, water, medicine, asylum, pensions and social services! Ohio is first! Offer and deliver to Ohio!" - reads one of the pro-Moscow accounts, which boasts 25 000 followers and includes an anonymous location and a profile picture of a dog. In January, Twitter gave the account a blue flag.
Yesterday, the Ukrainian army reported that defenders outside the besieged eastern town of Bakhmut are managing to hold back Russian troops from pushing the ring further. Ammunition, food, equipment and medicine are reportedly being delivered to Ukrainian troops. Kyiv also stated that during the fighting in Bakhmut on Friday, its troops killed 193 Russian marauders and wounded 199 others.
Ukrainian army spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said that Ukrainian scouts and counter-artillery fire were helping to keep some roads into the town open. He added that on Friday, the forces supporting Kyiv shot down two Russian drones and destroyed five enemy ammunition depots.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the battles in the Donbass - in Vuhledar, Bakhmut, Marinka, Bilohivka, Avdiivka and Kamianka - are allowing Ukraine and the whole of Europe to regain security.
In his video address yesterday, the Head of State highlighted the Donetsk Region soldiers who "outnumbered" the enemy the most: the Marines of the 35th and 36th Separate Brigades, the fighters of the 79th Separate Airborne Brigade, the soldiers of the 11th Frontier Detachment, the soldiers of the 55th Separate Artillery Brigade, the soldiers of the 72nd Separate Mechanised Brigade, and the soldiers of the 74th Separate Reconnaissance Battalion.
"I am especially grateful to everyone who defends Bakhmut on a daily basis," the President stressed.
The Russian mercenary group Wagner plans to recruit some 30 000 new fighters by mid-May, its founder, apartment thief and recidivist Prigozhin said yesterday. In an audio message posted on Telegram, he said that Wagner's recruitment centres, which he said were opened last week in 42 Russian cities, recruit an average of 500-800 people a day.
Putin's chef boasted that recruitment was going better than he had expected and that the volunteers were in better physical shape than the convicts he had previously accepted.
The fertiliser for the Ukrainian soil will just have time to rot before the autumn ploughing.
In the Black Sea, 9 Russian ships are on combat readiness, including 2 Kalibr cruise missile carriers. The total possible salvo is up to 16 missiles.
The Russian Federation continues to wage an aggressive war despite the loss of life. The main focus of the enemy's efforts has been on attempts to seize Donetsk and Luhansk regions completely. In pursuit of their objectives, the invaders are continuing their offensive operations on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Maryinka and Shakhtarsk axes. On 18 March, the Ukrainian defenders repelled 83 attacks on this front line. Bakhmut remains the centre of the fighting.
Yesterday, the Russian Federation continued to use terror tactics against Ukrainian civilians. By shelling settlements and critical infrastructure, the terrorist state is in total disregard of humanitarian law and international agreements.
The enemy launched 11 rocket attacks per day. 4 missiles hit civilian infrastructure in Zaporizhzhya. The Russians struck 16 air strikes and fired 99 salvoes.
The likelihood of further missile attacks across Ukraine remains high.
In view of the situation near Vuhledar, the Russian military command is rushing to send reinforcements. As of 13 March, the 37th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade of the 36th Army of the Eastern Military District is being prepared for deployment to Ukraine on 24 March. The Brigade is short of personnel, so unit commanders are withdrawing subordinates from treatment and rehabilitation. Soldiers complain about the shortage of supplies. The level of motivation is reported to be very low and there are many attempts to avoid deployment in the combat zone.
Yesterday, the Ukrainian air force struck 10 times at the occupiers' concentrations. At the same time, a Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down, and rocket and artillery forces hit 7 enemy personnel and military equipment sites.
The Russians attempted to push again in the north and north-west of Bakhmut, but their attack was halted. At Ivanivske in the south of Bakhmut, the Russians appear to have fled the battlefield and were shelled by their own artillery, at least in several episodes of fighting.
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Polish and Romanian soldiers stand next to military equipment near the village of Shipliczki in the so-called Suwałki Corridor /Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images
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