The security situation on NATO’s Eastern Flank has significantly changed for the worse since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 (and arguably before that). An organizing problem: the permanent force posture of the United States and NATO has remained trapped in time—a holdover from the tranquil, idealistic days of the post-Cold War era. In exchange for a promise of constructive behavior by Russia in the 1990s, the Alliance only extended to its Eastern Allies the treaty and political infrastructure of NATO membership. It did not extend the hard security infrastructure that other signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty enjoy—like permanent U.S. forces on their soil if they wished.
Since that time, as authors Peter B. Doran and COL (Ret.) Ray Wojcik argue in CEPA’s latest Intelligence Brief, „Unfinished Business,” the failure to update this force posture has invited aggressive Russian probing of our defenses and new challenges to the rules-based security architecture of Europe. It is now time to update the Alliance’s permanent presence on the Eastern Flank. We can start with Poland—and here’s how.
It is now time to update the Alliance’s permanent presence on the Eastern Flank, starting with Poland. Maximizing deterrence against an increasingly aggressive Russia, and adding substantial Assurance to Poland and CEE allies are the priority reasons, but there are manifold additional benefits to the U.S., Poland and NATO:
Washington will be in an unparalleled position to leverage its force posture with important additional access for rapid response in the region, and beyond—and it can be a stimulating factor for U.S.-EU synchronization for improving dual-use infrastructure with real military value in Europe;
After taking the plunge on a permanent force posture in Poland, the United States and Poland can significantly deepen the interoperability at the soldier-soldier, unit-unit level, and of equipment—fielding the most modern weapons systems NATO’s inventory;
Building up permanent forces in country creates unique opportunities for joint training, live-fire exercises, and unit partnerships. The Pentagon already has a number of unit partnerships at various echelons with Allies. Even without deploying a permanent division to Poland, increasing the size of the Mission Command Element in Poznań to a division staff level allows for many untapped advantages.
These include: increased cooperation and interoperability at the staff level and new partnering opportunities with the rare European Ally which possesses real division structures. CEPA analysis has determined the need for the U.S. Army to, at a minimum, permanently position a division staff, a heavy/armor brigade, and associated enabling units. These will significantly improve the United States and Poland’s combat capabilities, and that of other regional allies. Moving east of Berlin is only a start. Permanent infrastructure and forces must be considered the next step—not the last step—toward deterring Russia. In taking that step, we would send a resounding message to Allies of America’s unbreakable commitment to the region.
Finally, a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland would provide greater responsiveness for all of NATO and vital increased interoperability with regional armies. It would communicate the staying power and political will to resist Russian aggression against any covenant Ally. And by taking this action now, the United States can significantly fortify Europe against the troubling uncertainties that we are facing in the 21st century. Making the move toward permanent presence does not have to come at the cost of political unity within the Alliance; and it will improve the security of the entire European theater. This dramatically increases our prospects for peace
Source: Center for European Policy Analysis, November 2018