"A More United Front against Russia"

USA: Discord in preparation of Defender Europe 22. NATO reinforces its position against Russia at the Black Sea. Turkey emerges as unreliable ally.

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Own report) - In the USA, discord accompanies preparations for the Defender 22 large-scale exercise. The Pentagon wants to focus the maneuver on military modernization at home. This is why - contrary to the initial plans - it seeks to reduce the number of troops to be transited across the Atlantic to Europe and in the direction of Russia. This has provoked anger in the US Congress. The German Bundeswehr on the other hand, would like participation similar to the 2020 and 2021 war exercises. Independent of this, at the end of last week NATO's defense ministers initiated new measures for reinforcing the war alliance's position in its power struggle with Russia - particularly in the Black Sea region. The Black Sea is of major importance to Russia, on the one hand, for the defense of its southern flank and, on the other, for its naval power projection into the Mediterranean and on to the Middle East. NATO is setting its sights on both. However, its consistency is beginning to show cracks: Turkey is considered an unreliable ally.

Focus on Modernization

In the USA, discord is casting a shadow over the preparations for the Defender Europe 22 large-scale exercise. It was reported that the annual exercise practicing the trans-Atlantic deployment of US troops to the European continent headed toward Russia,[1] will not be a division-scale exercise, according to present planning. US troops will again dock at five European ports - in the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic - pick up equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) and move to "key areas" throughout Europe. This time, the focus will be on modernization efforts and implementation in the United States. The fact that the presence of US troops could thus be on a smaller scale than in the last two years has provoked anger in the House Armed Services Committee. The Pentagon should "review its decision" and “mitigate the impacts on readiness, deterrence, and interoperability," the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee wrote in a letter to the Department of Defense.[2]

Transit Support

It is not yet clear, what effects this discord in Washington will have on Germany's contribution to Defender Europe 22. According to the German government, the defense ministry has already been involved in the preparations of the large-scale exercise since the end of 2020. Initially there was talk of the exercise "focusing on northern Europe."[3] In February of this year, Peter Tauber, Parliamentary State Secretary in Germany's Defense Ministry reported to the Bundestag that the Bundeswehr's participation in some of the partial exercises is already firmly planned. Tauber explicitly mentioned Saber Guardian 2022, Swift Response 2022 and a joint command exercise. "A German-US exercise at the Oberlausitz Training Area" is also planned.[4] Tauber reported already at that time, that Defender Europe 22 would - "primarily in the size of the forces" - probably differ from this year's exercise, but "concrete demands of support" have "not yet been submitted to the German government." It is expected that the Bundeswehr would again participate "by providing support services for the transit of multinational forces and the redeployment of US forces and equipment."

From the Arctic to the Caucasus

At the end of last week - independent of their Defender Europe series of exercises - NATO's defense ministers drew up a new "master plan" for the war alliance's military activities in their power struggle with Russia. Previously, western militaries and strategists had applied massive pressure, to reinforce NATO's positions, particularly in the region of the Black Sea. Already in June 2020, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ben Hodges, former Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces Europe, stated that, so far, the western alliance had been concentrating on fortifying its positions in the Baltic, whereby, one is confronted with Moscow in a power struggle in an vast region - "from the Arctic to the Caucasus and the Baltic to the Black Sea." In the meantime, NATO has allowed "gaps" to form in its military positioning, particularly in the Black Sea, which, among other things, indicate that it has positioned itself at the Baltic with an "enhanced Forward Presence" (eFP), while, at the Black Sea, so far, only with an ad hoc "tailored Forward Presence." A "unified, coherent front" must urgently be established.[5]

NATO's "Master Plan"

NATO has now initiated appropriate measures. For example, parallel to aerial surveillance in the Baltic ("Baltic Air Policing") - in the Romanian port city of Constanta, it has established an enhanced Air Policing South (eAPS), with the temporary participation of the German Air Force.[6] The Bundeswehr is also involved in the Multinational Corps South-East (MNC-SE) in Sibiu, Romania. The new "Master Plan," passed by NATO's defense ministers at the end of last week, includes top secret plans for simultaneous military measures against Russia in the Baltic as well as in the Black Sea region. Additional weapons upgrades are also planned. This would entail not only procurement of new 5th generation fighter planes - US F-35 stealth jets and the Franco-German FCAS [7] - but also the acquisition of new missile defense systems, either US Patriot batteries (from Raytheon) or the European SAMP/T (Eurosam headquartered in Paris).[8] On the sidelines of last week’s meeting, Defense Ministers from 15 NATO Allies reaffirmed their commitment to multinationally to develop Air Defense capabilities.[9] Germany is one of the participants.

The Significance of the Black Sea

Various factors are playing a role in the background. At the Black Sea, on the one hand, Russia's main concern is its defense against the possible aggression of foreign powers against its southern flank "in the sense of protection and defense of Russian sovereign territory," as it was once formulated in an analysis in the journal MarineForum.[10] At the same time, Russia's Black Sea Fleet constitutes "the strategic backbone of Russia's projection of power, through the Bosporus into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East." This is considered an important basis for the "expansion of Russian influence into southeastern Europe and as far as the Levant," such as to Syria. This is why, for NATO, the Black Sea represents not only an offensive positioning, but also it is a means of rolling back Russian influence in the Mediterranean realm. In addition, however, the consistency of the western military alliance is beginning to show cracks. Turkey, which covers the entire southern coast of the Black Sea and de facto, controls the entrance to these waters, with the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, is cooperating more and more closely with Russia and, is beginning to be considered in the West, as an unreliable ally. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[11]) This weakens NATO at the Black Sea.


[1] See also Eastward Mobilization Test (III) and Kein Lockdown für Militärs (II).

[2] Jen Judson: US Army insists next year's Defender Europe is not canceled. defensenews.com 11.10.2021.

[3] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Christian Sauter, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Grigorios Aggelidis, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion der FDP. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/25059. Berlin, 08.12.2020.

[4] Schriftliche Fragen mit den in der Woche vom 1. Februar 2021 eingegangenen Antworten der Bundesregierung. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/26440. Berlin, 05.02.2021.

[5] Ben Hodges, Janusz Bugajski, Ray Woycik, Carsten Schmiedl: NATO Needs a Coherent Approach to Defending its Eastern Flank. warontherocks.com 12.06.2020.

[6] See also Im Einsatz am Schwarzen Meer.

[7] See also Der High-Tech-Kampfjet der EU.

[8] Neuer Masterplan zur Abschreckung Russlands. tagesschau.de 21.10.2021.

[9] Fifteen Allies deepen cooperation on Ground Based Air Defence. nato.int 21.10.2021.

[10] Marion Kipiani: Russlands maritime Strategie im Schwarzen Meer. Umsetzung und Folgen für die NATO. In: MarineForum 11/2018. S. 20-23.

[11] See also The Dwindling Eurocentric Perspective.