Since 2016 following on from the NATO Warsaw Summit the British army has continuously deployed an armoured battlegroup to Estonia, known as Operation Cabrit.

This is Britain’s primary contribution to a wider NATO operation known as the Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP).


This opinion piece was submitted by Harry Bulpit. Harry recently completed a degree in war studies at York St John University. While he has a general interest in military history and development, one of his primary areas of interest is in armoured vehicles. As such his final piece of work for his degree was a 10,000 world dissertation on Challenger 1 and 2 and its impact on the British Army.


A multinational force based in NATOs eastern most countries, to act as a conventional deterrent and reassurance from any possible aggression towards these states. However, while impressive this article will argue, at least in terms of Britain’s forces, why the current approach towards EFP is not necessarily correct.

Before we can understand how best to tackle the threat, we must first understand the threat itself. There is a common perception that any threat to the Baltics will come in the form of a major Russian armoured push, however, this is extremely unlikely and politically impossible. Even in Crimea the presence of significant Russian forces, officially or otherwise, only occurred relatively late in the crisis. With the corner stone of Russia justification for this intervention in Ukraine being the Putin Doctrine. This is the idea that Russia maintains the right to protect ethnic Russians living abroad from persecution and threats. This has indirectly led to an increase risk of similar Russian action to those in Crimea, in Russia’s other neighbouring states.

Pictures taken during an Advance to Contact training serial which involved a force on force battle between the Royal Marines and the Latvian Army.

As a result of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, ethnic Russians make up a large percentage of Russia’s neighbours’ population. Indeed 24% of Estonia’s population is considered to be ethnic Russian. As such if Russia want to gain control over the Baltics, it would do so through a deliberate and slow escalation of anti-Russian sentiment, directed towards the “Ethnic Russians” of whatever nation falls into Putin’s sight. until such time that a significant military intervention can be “justified”.

This would be achieved through aggravating any existing ethnic tensions through multiple avenues from miss information and political intervention to creating ethnically motivated violence and possibly even false flag terrorist attack.

Therefore, the best way to prevent such an altercation is to break the chain of escalation, as opposed to preparing to confront the extreme end of this slippery slope.

As such the best and easiest way to prevent a conflict is through counterintelligence and tackling misinformation. This would be best achieved through a range of organisation both militarily such as 77th Brigade, SRR, and ISR brigade, and civilian such as GCHQ and MI6. Indeed, it is very likely that these organisations are already actively involved in such missions. However, due to the very nature of these units and their role their involvement will likely remain classified. As such for the sake of public demonstration and reassurance, Britain will still need to deploy a sizable and visible military force. However, instead of deploying an expensive and valuable armoured battlegroup. It would seem the Baltics security would be best served through the deployment of a light Protected Mobility Battlegroup. Equipped with vehicles such as Foxhound and Jackals. Similar to that deployed on Operation Toral. Such a deployment would have multiple benefits compared to the current arrangement.

Image of a AS90 Self-Propelled Artillery artillery gun, seen here in the winter snow of Estonia.

The time between any initial Russian Involvement in the Baltics and a full-on military invasion. Would be a time of civic violence and insurgency style warfare. Either against groups of local “Ethic Russians” indirectly supported by Russia through military arms and training, or against Russian forces themselves disguised as the latter. With both types of insurgencies being seen in the Crimean conflict. As such a force designed and equipped to handle counter insurgencies and internal security threats, would be the most practical way to counter this level of escalation. Further still the deployment and possible use of lightly equipped forces would have a positive effect on both Britain’s and NATO public image. Russia has made a big deal of the deployment of heavy armoured force by NATO near to the Russian border. This is not only used to justify their own military build-up, but also plays into Russia’s attempts of creating fake news against the alliance, portraying it as the provocative element of any deterioration in relations between Russia and the West. Therefore, by replacing the current EFP force structure with that of a lighter and less provocative force would not only have a more practical deterrent to the likely threats NATO is to face but would also lead to an instant de-escalation of tension. All while denying Russia possible munition for their miss information campaign.

This is all the more beneficial when looking specifically at Britain’s current force structure. Under the plans laid out by the ISDR Britain’s military will have only two armoured brigades, each one likely to have only three battlegroups at most. This means, in a best case scenario, with one six of Britain’s armoured force continuously committed to the EFP, the 3rd Division has little flexibility to respond to new threats in any size larger than a reinforced brigade.

British troops land on an Estonian beach.

By removing the commitment of a heavy battlegroup to the EFP 3rd Division would be better positioned to react to any new threat. As such not only would the deployment of a light protected mobility battlegroup to Estonia have multiple practical benefits to NATOs mission, but it would also relieve a great deal of pressure on Britain’s heavily strained armoured force.

This is not to say that Britain’s armoured force have no place in the defence of NATOs Eastern members. As I have previously written about, If Britain is to maintain a significant military presence on the world stage it must maintain the ability to deploy heavy armour. However, in relation to the security of NATOs Eastern nation Britain’s armoured force would serve best as a strategic reserve. Able, along with American, Canadian and French Armoured Forces, to conduct a counterattack to any major Russian incursion. In addition to this if Britain maintains the ability to deploy a sophisticated and heavy warfighting division consisting of two armoured brigades, internationally outside of Europe borders. It Would not only be a substantial resource to the coalition but would also help maintain Britain’s vulnerable position as the 2nd major nation behind America on the international stage. It also has to be said that the combined strength of the EFP, even in its current form, would soon be overpowered by any determined Russian military force. As such if NATO strategy were to fail and any altercation was to escalate to the point of a major Russian military invasion.

Image of Latvian soldiers defending their positions in a simulated attack by other NATO allies.
X Ray Company of Arbroath based 45 Commando Royal Marines were deployed in the Baltics participating in a large scale NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) exercise.

Then a significant percentage of NATO armoured forces would be lost early on, which would significantly hamper any attempt of a NATO counterattack. As opposed to lighter forces which are not only admittable more expendable, but also more able to conduct a fighting withdraw over a long distance. As such Britain’s armoured forces, and those of other member states, would serve both the security of NATOs Eastern partners and the collation on the whole by being safety kept away from any possible initial attack. Keeping them free not only to conduct a counterattack in case of all out conflict, but also to deploy on any operation around the world.

At the end of the day the decision to deploy Armoured Forces to the Baltics and Poland lays in the hands of those with much better knowledge of the situation then I or many others will ever know. Indeed, the main task of the EFP is to present an image to Russia and the alliances members, and little sends a more powerful image then a large formation of tanks and other heavy AFV. But from what is publicly understood of the situation.

It would seem that the goals of Britain in both the Baltics and NATO as a whole would be best served through the deployment of lighter forces, capable of quickly and effectively dealing with any civil unrest or insurgency. Which coupled with ISR assets and positive public imagery, would block any possibility of Russia escalating tensions until such a point that heavy armoured formations are required. Leaving Britain armoured forces free to take a leading role in any future major NATO operation, in both Europe and globally.

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Paul.P

Interesting piece Harry. I agree with your observation that Putin uses defence of ethnic Russians as justification for intervention in neighbouring states like Ukraine for example. He has this vision of greater Russia. I don’t think it follows at all that we should change from our current posture of real muscle like Typhoon, Brimstone and heavy armour being forward based. Putin deploys fully trained Russian forces masquerading as mercenaries. We need to make sure they understand they will be resisted.

John Clark

It would be no different for Russian troops invading the Baltic States, than invading Norway, the response would be the same, an unthinkable war.

I do have some reservations regarding Germany and NATO’s mutual defence backstop.

The Germans are unfortunately unreliable, hesitant partners, allowing NATO partners to do the heavy lifting and would probably fiddle while Rome burns, looking for “political solutions” while T80’s roll through the streets of Vilnius…

The delay they could cause in a unified response is concerning…. The weak link in the chain.

Paul.P

Just to be clear the presence of UK armour in my view is to deter agression. Estonia is a member of Nato. Ukraine is not. Neither are many other countries where Russia is actively fostering instability. Light ‘ranger’ or security ‘trigger’ forces might be the way to go in Kenya or Sierra Leone say and might have worked had we had one in Crimea but the logistics of the geography and Estonia’s NATO membership suggest to me that we are adopting the best approach.

Ademeion

The Germans are unfortunately unreliable… That’s a pretty sweeping comment. What do you base it on? …hesitant partners I think their hesitancy (militarily speaking) is a healthy sign, considering what has happened during about the last hundred years. allowing NATO partners to do the heavy lifting Any nearby nation thinking Germany should become militarily stronger and take more military initiative is a recent phenomenon. It’s the same inside Germany. These things don’t change at a flip of a switch. …and would probably fiddle while Rome burns Forgetting the fact that that doesn’t make sense, do you think intentionally insulting another… Read more »

Last edited 26 days ago by Ademeion
Dern

John is a bit of a racist im afraid, hardly a post of his goes by without him bashing the Germans.

maurice10

Deploying heavy armour is the bit that concerns me. Being so close to Russian forces with CH2 and AS90 might sound good for the media, but in truth, the MOD has made it abundantly clear the future UK Army will not depend on such kit and plan to reduce to minimal levels. That being the case, why do we continue to masquerade as a modest, heavy punch outfit, when in fact, in a few years’ time there won’t be the kit to back up such policies? Do we expect the Russians to fall in line with the MOD and do… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Thank you for the support. Although I will clarify I still think armoured forces have a place and Britian should be able to deploy them in mass.

Geoffrey Roach

I have also long advocated the future of the British Army should be about highly mobile and powerfully armed strike groups and judging from the white paper that is where we are going. Excellent.
I think we have taken a political decision again with MBT’s. With a half dozen battle groups at our disposal there is nowhere for them to go unless we get involved in another desert land battle which to my mind we should avoid. like the plague. So Europe it it and the JEF area makes the most sense
.

maurice10

Given the scenario that the UK finds itself confronted by Russian tanks, it will have to face up or discreetly withdraw. Without a sensible MBT fleet, the UK is in danger of being relegated to reliance on smaller nations for either replacement vehicles or for them to take the lead. Without a good stand-alone heavy tank fleet, the UK will lose the high ground in any joint operations, thus finding ourselves playing second fiddle. That is something that does not sit well with senior army brass.

Geoffrey Roach

I think we’ve already lost the armour battle. When I submitted my tuppence worth to the review body I fiddled with the question of armoured regiments and finally came up with my own compromise which turned out to be very close to what we’ve ended up with but I went for all track armoured brigades. The 150 tanks will probably provide two old style type 56 brigades, allowing for reserves. With a force that small where are we ever going to deploy them except baking up the JEF area.. Maybe I should have been brave and the government too and… Read more »

Meirion X

You seem to have forgotten that the RAF would also be heavy involved in any land campaign in the Baltics, and the USAF which is based in the UK.
The Baltics would be the best place to make stand than in central Europe, for the UK.

Stop being defeatist!

Last edited 26 days ago by Meirion X
maurice10

I’m talking about tank to tank, as for the strange comment about aircraft, the Russian’s have them too! The reduction of UK MBTs is a mistake and we appear to be the only major power to think in these terms.

Meirion X

No strange comment about aircraft!
There would certainly be response to a ground invasion in the Baltics.

But do we really need to be doing the lion’s share of any tank battle in Central Europe?
I don’t think so! Yes we keep the armoured capability to a extent, but more of a niche player. Yes a sufficient reseve of armour as well.

Paul.P

I think Biden said he is committed to US forces in Europe. Ukraine is the Putin model; undermine confidence in government, dare the west to intervene, Russian forces arrive at the ‘request’ of local ethnic Russian population or of a vulnerable leader like Assad. Result = territorial gain and influence. Also use Russian money to infiltrate and undermine as in London and Cyprus. i have no doubt there have been extensive discussions with the US in the preparation of the defence review. We have aligned the proposed army structure to US structures and I am sure they are ok with… Read more »

maurice10

Intervene at the request of the local Russian population, is a very cosmetic way of describing the Bears modus Operandi. If it chooses it moves in leaving the diplomatic language to their media. I fear NATO is still a mess when it comes to crisis, and like the EU, can’t open a jar of coffee without consulting endless internal committees. The bottom line in so many recent conflicts has been US forces followed very closely by the UK, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. No, the US won’t be happy the UK is putting away their big guns.… Read more »

Paul.P

Agree your analysis of US leadership and UK partnership model. I can’t comment on Nato bureaucracy or UK debt to those who lend us money. These are above my pay grade. As regards the US not being happy about our ‘putting away our big guns’ I would say the conversation probably was along the lines of, what is the minimum UK tank force contribution you ( the US) feel you can rely on from an ally: answer 148 but make sure they are available and can kill a T14. We are investing in Apache, GMLRS, Ajax, Boxer, armed drones and… Read more »

peter wait

Ukraine is a more likely move as there a lots of minerals to exploit!

John Hartley

The First question is if Britain is willing to go to war with Russia over the Baltic States. If the answer is no, then that causes major doubts as to whether we truly support NATO. If the answer is yes, then do it properly or not at all. You have to have forces large & tough enough to make a Russian Invasion costly. Yet small enough, not to look like a provocation. I doubt Putin would risk war with NATO by doing a full invasion, but if he could take a few acres of forest & claim he is restoring… Read more »

Graham Moore

John, The Baltic states are all NATO members. If Russia ever invaded one or all of them (unlikely, I know), Article 5 will be called and we all rush to the party. We don’t really have a choice – we have got to be willing to deploy. What’s new, anyway? In the past we have gone to war over a foreign country – Belgium (WW1), Poland (WW2), South Korea (Korean war), Kuwait (Gulf War 1). Interesting that you think we still have significant forces in Germany. No longer. Take a look at Wikipedia under ‘British Army Germany’ – we have… Read more »

John Hartley

The US now has someone who thinks he won a senate seat, not the Presidency. The US is now like the Soviet Union in the early 80s, when senile fossils were in charge. Who is in charge of the US Gov right now? Not sleepy Joe, as he cannot get his prompt cards in the right order. Would Germany rush to fight Russia over a few acres in the Baltic States? Yes they would huff & puff, but Putin turning off the gas in Winter would stop any serious German action. The Germans turned away from nuclear power & made… Read more »

Rogbob

The reason is logistics. If we dont deploy heavy armour somewhere, we lose the ability to as the vital bit of generating land power, where people have to plan and execute doing things, gets forgotten. Equally, by doing it we put lines of communciaton in – both local where possible (eg food, some consumables) and for parts, replacements and so on. By doing this we constantly exercise the entire system of generating, deploying and sustaining heavy forces forward. If we didnt, we end up like BAOR, camp bound bar the local training area and then realise how hollow it all… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

An interesting counter argument and one I had not considered. Although my counter argument would be that these skills would be maintained through exercises abroad in both europe and the middle east.

TrevorH

I would take your point.

Heavy armour for us seems not sensible, but I suggest that anti tank weapons and anti heavy armour ditto is what we should deploy.
We have Typhoons locally if needs be. We have aircraft carriers.

Plus the Baltic states perhaps should have real heavy armour for themselves.

Harry Bulpit

The presence of Typhoons in the baltics make no difference. The airbase would be obliterated before the first tanks began to even roll forward, if that’s how Russia wanted to act.

Meirion X

Harry, There are to be USAF F-35As to be based in UK from this year.

Harry Bulpit

I am aware of this. Although may I ask what this has to do with the Baltics as I’m a little confused about your point?

Meirion X

The flight time from the UK for close air support in the Baltics is not much.

Bloke down the pub

Perhaps they’d like to buy some Challenger tanks that are going cheap?

Bob2

Let’s update the spare 250 to Ch3 standard and sell them those.

Rogbob

Yes a very fair point, but we need to do that as well! But having an enduring presence is a constant training opportunity, noting that as people come and go in posts, its easy to miss exercises, but hard to miss an enduring commitment. It also has different implications to an ex in terms of how you do it logistically (ie the longer you are somewhere the firmer you can go and the more you invest in both infra and supply lines) for a permament or semi-permament vs temp – same argument as for the regional hubs and forward deploying… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Your final point is very true.

Meirion X

At last a commenter who has Not got the 1938 syndrome!

John Clark

That’s an excellent point, BOAR was little more than a paper tiger.

It would have taken many months of build up to deploy it effectively. Gulf War 1 was an excellent example, it proved very difficult to scrape together 150 fully modified and battle ready Challenger 1’s, even though we had 900 odd Chieftain and Chally1’s on the books!

The 148 modified Chally3’s are going to be about as useful as a Chocolate teapot!

Meirion X

The BOAR did have 50000 troops at any one time, yes the equipment was crapy, but we had the kit numbers to make up for it.
I know this from the time my mate served in it in mid 80s.

Last edited 26 days ago by Meirion X
Graham Moore

Most of the kit was quite good. At least as good as our allies had. Fully accept that Chieftain, back in the day, was automotively unreliable.

Graham Moore

John, I feel like much of my army service was a waste of time. I served in BAOR/BFG on 4 postings between 1976 and 1992. I certainly did not have the perception that our force was a paper tiger. To 1982, we had a Corps of 4 armoured divisions, Corps troops, a National support organisation and a brigade in Berlin. From ’82 of course 2 Div redistributed its kit and the troops moved back to UK but were still BAOR-assigned. Our readiness was regularly tested by Exercise Active Edge (an unannounced crashout in the middle of the night) and NATO’s… Read more »

Graham Moore

I was a ‘BAOR warrior’ and had 4 postings there. I don’t recall that we only ever exercised on local training areas. We used fairly small local training areas for small-scale exercises but went reasonable distances to very large training areas (Soltau-Luneberg, Bergen-Hohne, Sennelager, Vogelsang) when we had major exercises, and the deployment included conveying the armour on rail flats and tank transporters.
The furthest training area which was often used was in Poland, from about 1994, when the Germans ‘forced us’ to give up our large training areas.

Rob

Lionheart 1984. I Corps and the whole of the TA. We went over by P&O ferry and train. Those were the days…

Caspian237

I think it is fine to provide light forces in the Baltics to deter, what has now been called, ‘below threshold’ aggression from Russia in rotation with other NATO allies. If there was any serious threat of a conventional invasion by the Russians then it would be highly unadvisable to station any sizeable number of forces there. For that eventuality I feel the best preparation would be to drill emergency evacuations of NATO forces unfortunate enough to be caught in a pocket following the obvious Russian advance to the Baltic coast further south.

farouk

As a result of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, ethnic Russians make up a large percentage of Russia’s neighbours’ population. Indeed 24% of Estonia’s population is considered to be ethnic Russian. As such if Russia want to gain control over the Baltics, it would do so through a deliberate and slow escalation of anti-Russian sentiment, directed towards the “Ethnic Russians” of whatever nation falls into Putin’s sight. until such time that a significant military intervention can be “justified”. Regards the above quote, it should be pointed out that the vast majority of Ethnic Russians in Estonia are… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by farouk
Harry Bulpit

This is most likely true. But it is nevertheless the tactic used by Putin and as such it this that we must prepare against.

Damo

It is certainly the tactic in Riga where the demographic is different. Russians in Latvia tend to be very pro Russian from my experience, driven by anti Russian sentiment post cessation

TrevorH

Correct. Well said.

The other thing to think is that Putin and his cronies are less interested in ethnic Russians and occupying them as rather creating an excuse to keep themselves in power. This is I believe straight out of the ‘1984’ playbook.

The Baltic states do have their own forces of course, so we and the rest of NATO are not ourselves an occupying force.

David Barry

Er… Baltic States may not have AIFforces, they most certainly do have forces.

TrevorH

I may be dim, I probably am, but I am not following your point.

Gavin Gordon

I agree with your point, Farouk, if for no more simplistic reason that many nations around the world were or are ethnic Brits. Did not stop them wanting self determination to the point of aggression towards the United Kingdom, though.

Geoffrey Roach

An interesting article Harry but one or two points… I am more concerned about the idea of a light force that could play a role in counter insurgency and internal affairs. It could backfire badly with Estonians and ethnic Russians seeing it as a foreign power interfering in national politics. The presence though of an armoured battle group, idealy with decent FIRES support is a NATO one and therefore part of a multi national group which Estonia is willingly a member. As a general point the UK led JEF including the Baltic states is a very sound way of the… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Your point is certainly valid for most cases, but I personally think the baltics is something of an outlier. The Baltics are very willing participants in the alliance and public support and trust is huge. Plus they are very aware of the threats and as such I doubt they would be strongly opposed to this type of involvement. Also bare in mind the Estonian army is a conscript army as such most citizens will either have, or be close to someone who has had, close interactions with visiting forces. Besides if BAOR BAOR taught us anything. Its that locals dont… Read more »

Geoffrey Roach

You may be right Harry…another way of looking at it certainly. I had three friends in BAOR at various times. Do you think the locals resented us being there as occupiers, or as a threat or a ” come on” to the Russians? I’d be interested in what you think.

Harry Bulpit

The kids seem to certainly enjoy it. I know when my dad went over in the 80s he recieved mix reactions. One reaction that he definitely remembers fondly was speaking to a vetran SS tank commander who gave my dads Malan platoon advice on where to set up tank killing grounds. It seems to have been later on in the era of BAOR when the threat of the Soviets was begging to get a little long in thooth and the memory of ww2 a little more distant that complaints began increasing. Although to be honest as much as I love… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

But to answer your question directly I don’t think we wher ever seen as occupiers. But rather just a nuisance by some.

Geoffrey Roach

OK Harry Many thanks.

Geoffrey Roach

Something that has been mentioned here and in other posts. Why do we have to build forces that we think the Americans will like? Why not build forces that suit us . equip them with the best kit and look after the people as best we can. We will then be envied and respected by the world for having the guts to do what we want.

Damo

I’m with you on this. Keep the big firm on side but they still want you alongside when they go in for a major scrap so the dynamic certainly shouldn’t be or isn’t do what America wants. They top are a power in decline

Daveyb

Hi Harry nice piece, I will agree to disagree. I believe you need both parties involved, i.e. both the strategic and local counter intelligence, but also have the “big stick” to hand to prevent rapid escalation. I have no doubt the the intelligence services are working ion the Baltic states. But we do need the full military presence there as currently deployed. My reasons are thus: Following WW2, Stalin instigated a policy of ethnic control through diversifying populations on Russia’s borders – who was going to stop him? The belief being, if you have imparted a friendly population within the… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Thank you for your feedback. I’m feeling as though my argument may not have been as clearly put across as think it was. If Putin intends to control the Baltics then he will certainly need to make an armoured push. However, my argument is that before this can occur he must destabilise the region through physical acts such as terrorism and insurgency action. The role of the light forces would be to combat these insurgents, as they did in Afghanistan, before they could successfully lay they ground work for an armoured advance.

DaveyB

Harry, yep appreciate that. But at some point the big stick is going to have to be used. As Ulya points out, their forces on that border have the best equipment and manpower. Therefore it would be foolish not to match that.

Harry Bulpit

But by trying to match or even over match the Russian forces on the border, would they not see that as a justification to increase those forces station there?

Meirion X

That’s the role of the Estonian light forces to prevent any insurgency there.

David Barry

Putin has 20,000 paras at Pskov with aviation aplenty; take Riga in 90 minutes.

Furthermore, huge swathes of Latvia are not conducive to armour; there’s a reason why the Latvians bought CVR(T).

TrevorH

You are saying they go there by parachute?

Stand Off Rocket Man

I think one possible route would be to build deep and wide ditches along the Russian/Estonian border and use a lot of cheapish drones (ala Turkey). But i’m not a military expert by no means. Rocket launched artillery would be a good approach too, but we seem to make little use of it.

I know there is conscription in Estonia, but do the ethnic Russians there have to complete it? When it comes to war, I think the ethnic Russians there might well change allegiance pretty quickly if it suited them.

Gavin Gordon

Thanks, Harry. Good piece. On balance, there appears considerable overlap between the article and the rationale of IR so, if I may, I’d say that overall the UK’s integrated objectives are not without laudable intent. They are certainly ambitious, and by no means certain, with perhaps a bottom line of championing endorsement of simple democratic values in an era of superblock ideology of many shades. Hopefully, a wee state like ours could be well enough respected to pull off something worthwhile. Either way, we have to try: not so much the world’s policeman, as a guardian and mentor for human… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Thank you for the feedback.

MarkF

A well written article, and if the EU hadn’t made soothing noises to the Ukraine about membership, I suspect that the Crimea would still be under Ukrainian control. You make a valid point re the deployment of Hy Armour all the way up there, and I agree with you that they should be replaced with a lighter force, but we should practise the movement of Hy forces into the area on a regular basis. This can either be by the the Channel Tunnel and rail infrastructure all the way north, or through the use of the RoRo fleet out of… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Definitely. I think the continued presence of a training ground in Germany along with major exercises every few years in Poland and the Baltic is crucial. However, the Baltic would be to heavily contested in a warfigting scenario to be used as a transport route.

Gavin Gordon

Interesting the OSINT 3 finds the silence over recent escalation in the Ukraine deafening.

Harry Bulpit

It is interesting how what, to the west at least, amounts to a sovereign nation invading and occupying the territory of another. Seems to have gone silent so shortly after it happened.

Gavin Gordon

To my mind, OSINT do drone on a bit with the bloggers motto apparently being ‘couldn’t agree more’. It’s new and maybe needs more disipline and succinct focus on the ‘stop press!’ news headlines, with links to the boggers if you want their personal input.
I switched off when they opened the IR section with apparent ”scandal’ over an army unit and T23 not being aware they were for the chop until the IR announcement – some military folks not paying attention?
However, the mobilisation in Ukraine was an Osint gem for the previous posted reason.

Stand Off Rocket Man

It’s been said that Pooty and the Russian military use/have used the book Foundations of Politics (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics) as the blueprint for their actions.How much truth there is in that is hard to judge, but it “has been used as a textbook in the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian military”. There’s a Russian copy of the book online for those who can speak the language and who want to read a neo-fascist’s work. I’ve never read it, just general outline by others, but one interesting bit is that the UK as an “extraterritorial floating base of the U.S.”,… Read more »

Bloke down the pub

Hi Harry, I wouldn’t disagree with the general push of your argument. The one distinction that I think needs to be made is that Putin used the methods in the Crimea that he did because he was confident that the EU would not respond forcibly and the US wouldn’t intervene for a non-NATO country. While he may be happy to cause problems in the Baltics, Putin knows that NATO will support them and the outcome is far less certain for him.

Harry Bulpit

Oh this is certainly true. So long as NATO continues to make its presence in the region known, Russia has no chance of taking it.

Ulya

Interesting article thank you, I will stay away from geopolitics simply because we see things differently and I know from past experience there is no hope of common ground, as far to what type of force you deploy, it makes absolutely no difference, the size of the force yes, but if you are only looking at about 800 people, light vehicles or warriors and a few tanks is irrelevant, the brigades posted opposite the Baltics have/are the last ones to be given latest equipment and full man power, priority has been to southern MD, Arctic and forces close to Ukraine… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Thank you. Interesting to hear from the prospective of a Russian citizen.

Glass Half Full

I agree with this “… as far to what type of force you deploy, it makes absolutely no difference …”, but for different reasons. Its not the number or capability of the forces in the EFP that matter above a certain minimum level of capability/deterrence, its the composition of the forces, i.e. the number of different nations. No one would choose to have such a mix of small forces of different nationalities for military reasons, its a trip wire. Action against this force would trigger Article 5 across all involved NATO nations at a minimum, even in the context of… Read more »

BB85

I’m no expert, but I always thought having armour forward deployed was a mistake as they would be too vulnerable in day 1 if a conflict did turn hot. We have no capacity to lose armour which is also an issue. Russia could obliterate an armoured brigade in less than an hour through a pre emtive strike. The UK doesn’t have the Sam capability to defend its vehicles they are basically sitting ducks to show a presence and little else.

Last edited 29 days ago by BB85
Gareth

Harry, please proof read that one more time, it is painful to read in places with many spelling mistakes and wrong words.
Would the primary plan to stop a Russian armoured thrust be tank on tank? Or would air launched brimstone be the weapon of choice? Either way it would be part of a virtually unthinkable war, so likely to be entirely theoretical.

Harry Bulpit

Thank you for the feedback. I did proof read it multiple times, although this means little since my English writing skills are terrible, but I did also have someone else read through it. Although I think going of the feedback I may need to look elsewhere. So sorry about that. As for armoured warfare, I suspect that the aerospace would be to heavily contested to make any real impact on the ground. As such I imagine the initial blocking action would be in the form of ATGMs and light tank destroyers. But the key to armoured warfare is to out… Read more »

SwindonSteve

Harry, check out Grammarly for your writing. It’s superb.

Daniele Mandelli

Just a word standing up for Harry, many might not know but he is dyslexic.

Andy L

I’d pull all UK forces out of the Baltic states. They are too small and isolated to deter Putin if he wanted to do a Crimea mark two using troops claiming to be Estonian ethnic Russians. Would NATO trigger WW3 over such a confused annexation? Given German reluctance I doubt it. Given the EUs outright hostility towards us and our army’s current state at present, I would concentrate our NATO obligations on Norway and the GIUK gap

Rogbob

Disagree- this exactly when we need to be forward and winning freinds in Eastern Europe to offset the deteriorating relatiobship in Western Europe.

Divide and conquer, the British way for centuries!

Harry Bulpit

They wouldn’t trigger ww2 if they where just helping a friendly country fight a internal war.

Albert

I strongly disagree with the author, using light armor instead of heavy armor in
Estonia. Russian President Putin the next day would invade Estonia if UK withdrew heavy armor.

For a decade I have studied Putin’s and NATOs strategy the only policy is to
heavy armor in the Baltics to avoid World War Three.

In 2016 I wrote to my Group of Seven, G7 country, Defense and Foreign Ministers about Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea. I was correct with Russian actions in policy in Ukraine and Crimea.

David

It is a thought provoking article @harry_bulpit however, a few things I would raise as a challenge. However, first is a question, you may have visited a Baltic State but have you ever lived in any of the Baltics for a meaningful number of years? Secondly, another question, do you speak Russian? Both would be really useful in actually understanding the dynamic that is the Baltics. I do not know Estonia, have travelled through Lithuania but know Latvia fairly well. Russia has the choice of stroking tensions in the Baltics and thus making NATO increase the readiness of her forces… Read more »

Mark B

Harry surely Russia would know that if they are to slowly infiltrate and overcome the Baltic states they must avoid at all costs any non Baltic casualties. Casualties means a high probability of full on war where nobody ultimately wins. If you present the Russians with a light force which might be easily overwhelmed without casulaties are you not tempting the Russians to take a dangerous risk? I would not assume the Russian speakers in the Baltic states are all fans of Putin nowadays. You would have to be 35 to remember communism and even then would they be fond… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Regardless of the force deployed or the tactics used by Russia. If NATO remains in the baltics and Russia is genuinely set on taking them, then they must inflict NATO casualties. However, the best way to do this without escalating the situation would be through supposed “3rd party” actors. Such as local ethnic Russian, actually Russian special forces posing as such, who are supposebly angered by the Baltic governments. Therefore if Russia was to begin its attack with a fake low intensity indigenous insurgency, as I suspect they would. Nato forces in their current form would probably be reluctant to… Read more »

Mark B

The “3rd party” actors scenario is a well trodden path. The differences I think are that the Baltic states are NATO countries and Russia knows that other NATO countries whole security plan is built around supporting a fellow NATO player if attacked. The thin disguise fools nobody. Also the strength of feeling in the Baltic states (hatred) against Russians using their territory as a battleground is amazingly strong. The Russians would need a lot of kit to overcome the locals however good the special forces may be nowadays. The Germans tried to portray the Poles as the aggressor in 1939… Read more »

Meirion X

I agree, Very True!

Mike O

There is much of what you have said that I do agree with. Most significantly the forward deployed armoured battlegroup does weaken the two future armoured BCTs for which there is already no reserve. But I think the optics are important. To the public, media and allies. As an alternative (in future of course) to light forces I would suggest a battlegroup from the deepstrike BCT. It has the optics of armoured vehicles and big guns/rockets while having the ability to withdraw while maintaining contact and, to put it crudely, pounding the f**k out of them. Also aiding ISTAR for… Read more »

Airborne

Some good thoughts mate but maybe the EFP has a secondary taks, and thats to jutsify (was used to justify very recently in the IDR possibly?) not cutting the rest of the Armoured formations, Chally 3 upgrade etc? Replace the force with light role, another nail in the coffin for UK Armoured formations? Another reason maybe that top brass used to defend the little remaining arnour we have? Thoughts?

Harry Bulpit

I do fear that you may have hit the nail on the head or at least partially.

Mark B

Does the UK strategy signal a move away from land forces. The UK will still have some land forces but are really looking to contribute to this type of operation by securing the seas and the skies. Are we still in the business of doing the lion’s share of the work in land battles in Europe?