17 January 2022,   15:31
The United States should adopt a more assertive strategy in support of Ukraine and Georgia – American General

In the article for the American Research Organization’s website, General Ben Hodges writes about NATO’s strengthening in the Black Sea region, focusing on Georgia-Ukraine support strategies.

“Washington must raise the priority of the Black Sea region and develop a strategy that puts the Black Sea in the middle of Eurasia’s geostrategic map. Accordingly, NATO should declare all capabilities across the alliance’s eastern flank as “Forward Presence” vs “enhanced” and “tailored”.

Moreover, NATO should improve mission command, intelligence sharing, and its physical presence in the Black Sea region. That should start with a Graduated Defense Plan, similar to what was approved for the Baltic region. NATO should also establish a joint, three-star headquarters for the Black Sea region. This command would utilize intelligence from all sources, improving situational awareness, and enhancing “speed of recognition” in the Black Sea region.

This is particularly important based on the lessons of Moscow’s hybrid invasion of Crimea. That episode made it clear that NATO needed to improve its speed: (1) speed of recognition of Kremlin intentions despite Russian cyberattacks and disinformation efforts as well as exercises and movements; (2) speed of decision making at all echelons of the alliance and/or national forces; and (3) speed of assembly to prevent or respond to a potential crisis. Training and resourcing, therefore, should focus on rapid, effective, and fast responses.

In terms of physical presence, NATO should strengthen the defense of the western Black Sea with unmanned maritime systems and ground-based systems, including anti-ship missiles, drones, and rotary wing attack aviation. Similar to the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltics,7 the alliance should conduct persistent maritime policing missions with a non-littoral NATO naval presence. NATO should also establish an Unmanned Aircraft System Center of Excellence in Romania.

To support these forces, the alliance should improve communication, mission command, transportation, intelligence, fuel, ammunition storage, and assembly area infrastructure in the Black Sea region. The October 2020 codification of a 10-year road map for U.S.-Romania defense cooperation represents a positive step. Romania has been modernizing the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Black Sea.8

This increased physical presence must, of course, be protected from attack. That requires enhancing and integrating air and missile defense (AMD). These AMD capabilities must be layered for maximum defense. Romania hosts a U.S. Aegis Ashore system and has already taken delivery of a Patriot air defense system.9 Still, additional AMD resources are needed in the region. Furthermore, to ensure and maintain readiness, the alliance should conduct regular theater-wide AMD exercises, command post exercises, and live-fire exercises.

These forward elements must also be fully integrated into the larger Supreme Allied Commander Europe area of responsibility. Forward elements in the Black Sea region should be supported by transcontinental transportation infrastructure, more frequent logistical and deployment exercises, and improved military mobility.

All of this will certainly draw the attention of Moscow. This means cyber protection must be a priority, given Russia’s reliance on this asymmetric warfare tool.

While there is clearly much work to do, the good news for Americans is that much of this new Black Sea region military posture need not consist of U.S. forces. Washington should certainly encourage and help lead the effort, but a majority of the forces can and should come from other NATO members – once again highlighting the value of the alliance for Americans.

Strengthening military posture within the NATO alliance, however, is not enough. The United States should adopt a more assertive strategy in support of Ukraine and Georgia. That means providing more support to Ukraine’s navy. It also means encouraging European and NATO nations to ban from their ports all Russian naval and merchant vessels that sail from any Crimean ports. NATO, with American leadership, should also intensify cooperation with Georgia under existing initiatives, including the modernization of Vaziani military airfield.

To encourage enhanced security in the Black Sea region, NATO should adopt a more nuanced approach in measuring whether an ally is carrying its fair share of the defense burden. The 2 percent metric currently does not account for or incentivize some of the things the alliance most needs. Examples include contributions toward improved military mobility and cyber protection of transportation infrastructure”, - reads the article.