Military Mobility: Moving Mountains for Europe’s Defense

March 3rd, 2021

The Imperative 

In the wake of the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine NATO has placed renewed emphasis on credible deterrence and defense, strengthening its posture, enhancing its responsiveness and speed of reinforcement. However, military mobility is not simply vital for deterrence. EU civil-military crisis management also pre-supposes the rapid movement of forces across Europe and to crisis regions adjacent to the bloc’s borders. Therefore, given these strategic imperatives, both NATO and the EU must together act to improve the military mobility of military forces and resources across Europe prior to and during emergencies.  To that end, the CEPA Military Mobility Report was launched yesterday, the aim of which is essentially simple: to ensure Allied forces and resources can be moved quickly and securely during a crisis to where they are needed. Credible deterrence requires demonstrated capability and the will to use it. The prime component is speed: speed of recognition that an attack might be imminent; speed of decision to begin necessary movements and preparations; and speed of assembly to ensure sufficient combat power is in place to deter.  In the contemporary and future defense of Europe, credible deterrence will depend on military mobility that is fast enough to at least match Russian forces. 

The Report

Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) designed the Military Mobility Project to identify the conditions needed to markedly and affordably improve military mobility in Europe.  The report is built around five different scenarios which reached across Europe and beyond and which were considered at length by civilian and military practitioners and experts from the EU, NATO, industry, governments and the media. The report is also the result of a year-long, comprehensive examination of all the facets needed to accelerate military mobility.  Facets that span across the four core pillars of the report:  adapted rules, regulations and procedures for the movement of forces, resources and dangerous goods across borders; improved and strengthened transportation infrastructures; effective command, control and co-ordination; funding; bespoke special capabilities; resilience and security of movement; and robust testing through constant exercises.  The report also calls for the establishment of a 24/7 network of national points of contact, and the standing up of territorial commands by transit and host nations to facilitate smooth movements along multimodal movement corridors, all of which must be properly supported by logistic hubs. Realization of the vision at the core of the report will require a new level of NATO-EU cooperation and of personal engagement between their respective senior leaderships. The report is also just the beginning.  A first step down the road to improved military mobility.  An expert network has now been established that will help steer a campaign to convince leaders that investment in military mobility is a post-pandemic value-for-money investment in Europe’s future peace and security. It is an investment that will not only benefit Europe’s security and defense, but physically strengthen the solidarity between its peoples, and the wider Euro-Atlantic community.  Indeed, enabling Europeans to better share burdens with their North American allies is hard-wired into the DNA of this project. 

Military Mobility: Moving Mountains for Europe’s Defense 

Admiral Rob Bauer, the Chief of the Netherlands Defense Staff, and Lieutenant-General Scott Kindsvater, Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, in their support for the Military Mobility Project acknowledge the vital importance of fast and secure military mobility to credible defense and deterrence and effective crisis management. They also recognize far more needs to be done.  Unfortunately, Europe is still a long way from satisfying all the requirements accelerated military mobility will demand. European Allies have insufficient capacity and capability, there are few if any clear lines of authority, and determining clear chains of command remains a major weakness. Perhaps the biggest question that remains outstanding is why military mobility?  The answer is strikingly simple. Enhancing military mobility is not about preparing to fight a war, but to prevent one.  NATO is ultimately in the business of deterrence, and deterrence is the business of convincing Europe’s adversaries that any threat will be met quickly and decisively. 

It is time to act. It is time to move. 

Ben Hodges, Heinrich Brauss, Julian Lindley-French