The Hidden Potential of NATO's Gator Navies (excerpt)
(Source: Rand Corp.; issued March 17, 2017)
by Gregory DeMarco and Gene Germanovich
The Trump administration has vowed to strengthen the U.S. military, nudge NATO allies to honor their financial commitments, and, if possible, avoid confrontation with Russia. Fostering allied maritime and amphibious capability development would support all three policy aims.

A push for U.S.-European amphibious interoperability at the alliance's upcoming summit in Brussels would reward allies that have invested in naval infantry forces and ships, while at the same time improving U.S. defense posture in a non-provocative manner that complements recent moves in land forces.

NATO's force-posture responses to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea have been primarily — though by no means exclusively — land-centric: enlarging its NATO Response Force, establishing a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force as NRF's spearhead force, and deploying rotational, battalion-sized formations to Poland and its three Baltic neighbors. A natural next step is to bolster allied maritime presence.

Already, there are efforts to improve surface- and submarine-warfare capabilities; these should be supplemented with a focus on expeditionary capabilities and amphibious interoperability.

This approach has three principal benefits.

First, Marines and naval infantry operating from amphibious ships offer a rapidly employable force with less escalatory risk than additional army deployments near Russian borders (although this too may be necessary). If designed as a scalable organization supported by sea-based logistics, one or more multinational amphibious task forces would enable the North Atlantic Council and Supreme Allied Commander Europe to shift forces expeditiously and based on the security environment, unencumbered by negotiations for host-nation access and infrastructure considerations.

This would support recent NATO efforts to develop executable operational plans that allow speedier political-military decision-making. While not a substitute for additional heavy army forces, Marines and naval infantry enabled by organic sea- and airborne fires can boost NATO deterrence in northern Europe (end of excerpt)


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