Thursday, March 27, 2014

The European Order of Battle

Regional Power, My Ass.

The Russian military is ranked 2nd in the world after the United States.  President Obama dismissed Russia out of hand as a "regional power", but are they? Or better yet... do they need to be anything more?  I doubt Russia has any designs on American territory, or even western European territory.  The Russian focus is on eastern Europe, the near east, and the far east, its self-identified sphere of influence.

The Russian military has an active end strength of nearly a million men, a mix of career military and conscripts.  Their reserve forces number roughly 2.5 million.  By comparison the United States has an active end strength of 1.4 million with reserve forces of 850,000.

Numbers will appear Russia/US: 

Manpower: 3,000,000/ 2,250,000
Tanks: 15,500/8,235
Armored Fighting Vehicles: 27,607/25,782
Self Propelled Guns: 5,990/1,934
Towed Artillery: 4,625/1,791
Rocket Projectors (MLRS): 3,781/1,330
Total Aircraft:  3,082/13,683
Helicopters: 973/6,012
Aircraft Carriers: 1/10
Frigates: 4/15
Destroyers: 13/62
Corvettes: 74/0
Submarines: 63/72
Coastal Craft: 65/13
Mine Warfare: 34/13

Another consideration is that armies run on petroleum.  Russia produces 11 million barrels a day and consumes 2.2 million barrels a day.  The United States produces 8.5 million barrels a day and consumes 19 million barrels a day. The United States naval forces are designed around force projection, in the event of a European land war the vast majority of them would be tied up in protecting the petroleum supply, which the Russians are well equipped to disrupt. 

Another consideration is that all of the Russian forces are in, or convenient to, a European land war,  American forces are not.  Consider tanks, the Russians have 15,500, the United States currently has 22 in Europe.

What about NATO?

Lets take a look at the big 3 NATO members the UK, France, and Germany.  The Numbers will be presented in that order.

Manpower: 387,330/424,426/328,000
Tanks: 407/423/408
Armored Fighting Vehicles: 6,245/7,290/4,279
Self Propelled Guns: 89/149/185
Towed Artillery: 138/750/0
Rocket Projectors (MLRS): 56/60/252
Total Aircraft: 908/1,203/710 
Helicopters: 362/561/401
Aircraft Carriers:1/1/0
Frigates: 13/22/12
Coastal Craft: 24/14/8
Mine Warfare: 15/18/15

UK produces 1.1 million barrels a day, consumes 1.7 million barrels.  France produces 70,800 barrels a day, consumes 1.9 million barrels. Germany produces 157,000 barrels a day, consumes 2.5 million.  These numbers are also with the consumption of Russian gas,  what will happen when Russia turns of the tap?


The first logical choice for Russia, if it wishes to return former Soviet states to its fold is to knock off the non-Nato aligned former Soviet states.  It currently has >30,000 troops poised on the border of Ukraine and we all know they're not there to fend off a possible Ukrainian invasion of Russia.  The deputy speaker of the Duma (lower house) has already suggested a return to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact division of the Ukraine in letters to Poland, Romania, Hungary.

World War III

The first thing that is readily noticeable about any future conflict is that the west is heavily dependent upon imported POL.  The first thing the Russians will do is disrupt that flow, either through interdiction (recall the Atlantic convoys of WWII) or through direct disruption.  The Russians can and will invade or threaten to invade the middle east, tying up western forces there.  Putin is not as stupid as Hitler, this is what the German Army wanted to do, instead of attacking Russia and had it done it, WWII may have had a very different outcome.

The second thing you will notice is that we have a preponderance of aircraft.  This follows the western theory of warfare in that the first thing you need to establish is air superiority.  This will work out well for us in the initial stages of the land war... that is until the petroleum runs out.  The other thing that you will notice is that Russia can disrupt our POL supplies without directly attacking us, we can not disrupt theirs without attacks on Russian territory, throw in the nuclear card and you can see the restraint that throws into the politics.  Western forces will be reluctant to stage attacks directly on Russian soil barring direct invasion of the core (western European) NATO members, my apologies to the Balkans.

The third thing you will notice is that Russia has the preponderance of men and mechanized ground forces, and is better equipped for amphibious operations.  When air superiority is neutralized by interruption of the POL supply lines, this will be the deciding factor on the ground.  Russia is well equipped and well poised to restore Europe to its pre-1991 borders.

A fourth consideration is, given a European ground war, will Russia even need to take any independent action to disrupt POL supplies.  Syria and Iran may well be willing to do it for them while the US and NATO is otherwise preoccupied.  Even then, all it would take is one nuclear false flag operation to disrupt the western economies for years to come.  While we could undoubtedly prove Russian fissile material was used in the device, we could probably never prove it was the Russians that set it off. In all likelihood it would be attributed to Muslim extremists or Iran, plausible deniability. Hell, he might even set it off on Iranian territory... and frame oops! Iran for it.

Take it with a grain of salt

This is just one cold warrior's top-level analysis.  It is what I would do if I were Putin and if I wanted to restore Russia to its former Soviet era glory by going to war.  Take out the non-NATO aligned states and wait for western reaction.  Disrupt the middle-east oil supply prior to staging any additional hostile action.  Invade the former Soviet NATO states.  All it takes is a set of brass ones, and we are in no position to stop it.

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