NATO's land forces: Losing ground


American ground troops who arrived in Poland last week took part in military exercises with Polish parachuters as a part of NATO cooperation.

Article Highlights

  • Land forces play a vital role, ensuring not only readiness for action at very short notice, but also ability to stay the course.

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  • Throughout NATO, units are being disbanded, facilities closed, and territorial defense structures reviewed.

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  • European NATO member states are in a paradox, with certain items of capacity in excess and glaring shortfalls in other areas.

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Guillaume Lasconjarias's "NATO's Land Forces" is the 11th National Security Outlook in AEI's Hard Power series. It is the second essay in this series that examines a whole military service, with the first being Bryan McGrath's "NATO at Sea: Trends in Allied Naval Power" (September 2013). Much like in McGrath's analysis, Lasconjarias assesses the effectiveness of allied land forces as, at best, decidedly mixed. On the one hand, there is little question that those forces have undergone a remarkable transformation since the Cold War's end. Indeed, for most of the latter half of the era, NATO fielded more than two dozen divisions in Europe-divisions that were mechanized and armored, strung out across the then inner-German border, and organized around autonomous national corps. Today's allied land forces are smaller, lighter, designed principally to handle a wide range of out-of-area contingencies, and capable of operating in multinational coalitions. Moreover, they have been infused with operational experience from deployments in the Balkans, Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But looking forward, the question is whether these forces have become too small and, because of budget constraints, lack the equipment to deploy rapidly and sustain themselves operationally. Combined with the planned cuts to America's land forces, is NATO on the verge of losing a traditional, key strategic capability-the ability to control both territory and population?

— Gary Schmitt, Director, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI

Key points in this Outlook:

  • Of all the service branches, allied land forces have borne the brunt of declining defense budgets.
  • In recent years NATO's land forces have been professionalized and transformed, but their ability to carry out the various missions they might be tasked with is at risk because of a shortage of men and key materiel.
  • Maintaining the operational experience and combat skills gained from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan will be difficult, although the NATO Response Force could, if properly structured, help ease that problem.


The state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) land forces is something of a paradox. Although the alliance has no equal in terms of its gross domestic product, commands a wealth of human and social capital, and boasts the world's largest aggregate defense sector, NATO's land forces in particular have lost ground when it comes to their overal combat capacities.

In member states, the effects of the worldwide economic crisis on defense budgets have been compounded by dwindling public support for the continued commitment of national armed forces to apparently insoluble foreign conflicts. Nevertheless, as the alliance draws down its longest and costliest mission in Afghanistan, now is the time to review the lessons learned from a decade of sustained combat operations and to ensure they are implemented in time for the next major deployment. Overall, the idea is to shift from a "NATO deployed" to a "NATO ready" mode; the challenge, according to US General Philip Breedlove, current supreme allied commander in Europe, is to maintain the operational excellence acquired over the past decade.1

At the strategic, operational, and tactical levels, land forces play a vital role, ensuring not only readiness for action at very short notice, but also ability to stay the course. Ground action is a major requirement in the three-step sequence of intervention, stabilization, and normalization and includes a wide range of missions from coercion to civil assistance.2 To quote a former chief of staff of the French Army:

Since war is mainly a question of controlling the population concerned . . . it will inevitably involve controlling the territories where these populations live-particularly urban areas, but also areas where ports and airports are situated. This means that troops on the ground will always be needed-and in sufficient numbers!-if one wishes . . . to obtain anything like a decisive victory. As a result, these troops on the ground will remain at the core of any future forces system.3

This is all the more problematic with the types of operations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, where civil war-like conditions raised the need for a very demanding level of territorial control only achievable by ensuring a high ratio of soldiers per inhabitant. Yet, with few exceptions, European armies continue a deflationary trend, moving more and more toward the status of "sample" or "bonsai" armies, which, in turn, risks breaking these smaller forces when deployed often and continuously.4

Some analysts see the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region as portending more generally the downsizing of both land force capacities and the role of land forces in future defense strategies. The growing emphasis on a new anti-access-area denial paradigm prioritizes air, naval, and amphibious operations. This idea is also gaining currency in Europe, where some politicians have even gone so far as to propose excluding land forces from any future operations.5

But many lessons learned over the past two decades of alliance operations lend support to the idea of maintaining credible land capabilities of an appropriate size and with a high level of technological sophistication. As Lieutenant General Frederick Hodges stated when NATO Allied Land Command Izmir (Turkey) became operational: "Our tradition after every war has been repeating the mistake of reducing land forces to save money, believing that we can avoid casualties in future wars by relying more on air and sea power . . . and each time, we are required to hastily rebuild land forces to meet the threats the nation consistently fails to accurately anticipate."6

But whether NATO can avoid repeating this mistake in the face of eroding defense budgets and the uncertainty of a larger allied strategic vision is a question that remains both open and in need of answering sooner rather than later.7

Transforming Land Forces

The major challenge NATO member states face is to translate current security requirements into real operational capabilities.8 Threats such as international terrorism and failed states have emerged alongside the more traditional threats posed by interstate tensions-a problem set that has reemerged with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To meet this complex set of security problems, since the end of the Cold War, NATO and its member states have made extraordinary efforts to transform their command and force structures, even in the face of declining budgets.

Among the European NATO members, land forces have a number of common features:

  • With few exceptions, conscription armies have been superseded by wholly professional forces.
  • The "heavy" equipment for land forces of the Cold War period (for example, tanks and ground-based artillery), geared to an East-West conflict, has given way to a new generation of high-tech equipment based on the principles of network-centric warfare.
  • Command structures have been radically changed with the advent of standing multinational commands.
  • New doctrines highlight the crucial role land forces play in stabilization operations and need to take a comprehensive approach involving political, military, and civilian assets when managing an armed intervention.9

But these changes have, in the face of fewer overall resources, come at a cost. No armed-service branch seems to have borne the brunt of these budget cuts more than the land forces, with troop numbers in some cases halved and equipment budgets slashed by two-thirds.10

The professionalization of NATO armies began in the 1990s. With the exceptions of Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, and Turkey, most armies are now wholly professional. This has meant a complete change not only in format but also in the very way forces are structured. Thus, between 1996 and 2013, numbers in the French Army decreased from 268,572 to just more than 119,000. In the United Kingdom, current troop numbers (99,800 in 2013) will be brought down to 82,000 by 2020.11 For Germany's army, the trend is even clearer: the ongoing reform envisages a maximum of 61,000 soldiers. This compares with a total of 239,950 troops in 1996, of which 124,700 were conscripts.

The cuts are even more substantial among the former Warsaw Pact members. Joining NATO spurred them to place a priority on quality of land forces over quantity. To take but two examples, Polish land forces now total just 25 percent of the numbers they boasted just 20 years ago, while the Bulgarian army has shrunk from 50,400 (33,300 conscripts) in 1996 to 16,300 in 2013 and has eliminated all four tank brigades in favor of lighter infantry and more mobile mechanized units.12 Throughout the alliance, units are being disbanded, facilities closed, and territorial defense structures reviewed.

This erosion of troop numbers limits the possible number of operational commitments a government can make and the size of the contingents that can be deployed. In France, for instance, the land forces envisaged under the 2014-19 military planning law will total 66,000 deployable soldiers, with a maximum commitment of 15,000 at any one time.13 This means that, in little over a decade, France has gone from having a goal of being able to deploy 50,000 at any given time to a number less than two-thirds that figure.

The United Kingdom, meanwhile, aims to have a rapid-response force totaling five brigades, with the goal of having one brigade available at all times.14 Based on a 36-month training and potential deployment cycle, this would allow the United Kingdom to undertake a brigade-level operation and two additional missions, one complex (up to 2,000 troops) and one simple (up to 1,000 troops).15 Finally, in the case of the other major European power, Germany plans to have the ability to deploy up to 4,000 troops in two operational theaters and contribute about 1,000 troops for special operations, evacuation missions, or the NATO Response Force and EU Battlegroups.16 Given the potential manpower and resources available to both of these countries, the goals set on the number of deployable land forces are relatively modest.

For other nations, levels of potential operational commitment are less clearly formulated. In Italy, where land forces are still in the process of downsizing, projectable contingents are defined by the annual budget. Poland, after having been heavily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, seems to be abandoning expeditionary capacity in favor of solely territorial deployment. In an official statement on August 15, 2013, President Bronisław Komorowski announced that the days of sending "Polish soldiers to the antipodes" were past.17

These limitations in deployable numbers are, theoretically, mitigated by the fact that national doctrines in most cases assess the legitimacy of any potential opera-tion according to the number of democratic allies that would be involved. Thus, the general trend is in favor of coalition-based operations, either with a preferred partner (as in the case of the future Franco-British Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, born from the November 2010 Lancaster House Treaties) or by participating in a EU- or NATO-sanctioned operation.

Further efforts at mitigating the impact of shrinking force sizes include the introduction of unmanned robotic systems to replace personnel in certain functions-for example, the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the deployment of robots for anti-improvised explosive device (IED) operations-and the greater reliance on smaller, albeit expensive, special forces to carry out specified missions.18 In addition, reserve troops in some countries are growing in strength. Here, the British and Canadian models seem to be better established than in most other member states. However, the use of reserve troops is still subject to two major constraints: the actual availability of reservists and the quality of their training.19

But the fact remains that the nature of the conflicts experienced by NATO members since the end of the Cold War inescapably indicates that troops are still needed on the ground-and sometimes in considerable numbers if the overall mission is to be accomplished.

What Equipment for Which Operations?

The economic crisis affects not only troop numbers but also the ability to introduce new equipment, with consequences for future force models. Further complicating the effort to upgrade platforms and weapon systems has been the constant pace of recent operations and those operations' particular equipment needs.

These considerations have led to radical choices in some nations. One example is European allies decommissioning their heavy tank units. While the modern tank is still a potent weapon and often overlooked as an efficient and relevant tool in current stability operations, Europe may only have 450 to 600 modern main battle tanks to be distributed among France, the United Kingdom, and Germany in a near future.

In the Netherlands, battle tanks have been totally eliminated. Interestingly, this decision was based not on an analysis of the operational environment but on budget-related considerations: "The cuts imposed on the Royal Netherlands Forces . . . are an indirect consequence of the international economic crisis [and] there are no underlying strategic or political considerations other than the obvious need to recover economic health."20 Similarly, budget constraints have led Germany to halve its orders for Tiger attack helicopters (from 80 to 40) and those for the multirole NH90s (first from 122 to 80, then to 64). The budget forecast for Puma vehicles has been reduced from 410 to 342 while the number of Leopard 2 tanks will drop from 350 to 225.21 The same trend can be seen in the United Kingdom, where 188 main battle tanks are to be cut from the land force, and the AS-90 self-propelling artillery system phased out.22

Squeezed by tight budgets, governments tend to view the modernization process as an opportunity to maintain national industries. France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany, for example, each have their own model of heavy tank. Meanwhile, in Turkey, where the first wave of modernization in the late 1980s included updating the oldest equipment with foreign buys, priority has now been given to the production and adoption of military equipment that has been domestically produced since the late 2000s. Pride of place goes to the $500 million Altay T battle tank project, with delivery scheduled to start in 2015.23 Poland, too, has outlined a modernization effort it hopes to use to support and transform its defense industry.24

There is both an economic and political rationale for nations to keep specific manufacturing competences. No nation with a defense industry wants to give up such a resource, particularly when doing so could cause an increase in unemployment. Yet, for the period from 2010 to 2020, there are no fewer than 17 programs for the production of armored vehicles.25

Moreover, there is a tension between the desire to quickly update obsolescent materiel and the need to procure equipment over a period of years for budgetary reasons. This creates a stock of equipment from different generations. The British FV432 armored caterpillar-track troop carrier, first introduced in the 1960s, has received upgrades that would extend the vehicle's lifespan to 2020 and beyond and allow it to operate alongside much more modern equipment.26 In addition, the need to test new materiel in real-life conditions further draws out the lifespan of their predecessors.

Land forces have in some cases also benefited from their combat deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, obtaining equipment they would otherwise probably not have acquired as quickly. This can also result in what some experts call the hyper-specialization of land forces, with armies' procurement and logistic needs geared to the operational needs of a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign.27 Admittedly, modernization has also been positively informed by the practical experience of addressing urgent operational requirements, even at great expense. For example, when faced with new threats such as IEDs, allied land forces have chosen to move rapidly toward adopting better-protected vehicles.28

For many nations, the urgency to meet this need required purchasing vehicles from outside their own countries. Following its engagement in Afghanistan, the Netherlands purchased 76 Thales Australia Bushmasters between July 2006 and August 2009. Similarly, after seeing dozens of their armored vehicles destroyed by IEDs, the British contracted in November 2006 with Force Protection Inc., the producer of the American-made Cougar Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) and supplier to the US Marines Corps.

The Mastiff and Ridgeback variants of the Cougar MRAP are major items of expense at $623,000 and $600,000, respectively. One study estimates that the United Kingdom's purchase of more than 750 vehicles under urgent operational procedures, mostly from US suppliers, cost more than £260 million (€313 million).29 Norway has approached BAE Systems for the upgrading of 103 CV90 combat vehicles, which were purchased from the mid-1990s onward, and the supply of 41 new CV90s between 2015 and 2017, accounting for a total outlay of about $1 billion.30

In these cases, fleets could be too piecemeal or too small to be run effectively. Vehicles purchased in response to particular needs can become the backbone of future fleets, compromising plans to modernize future land fleets with significantly different architectures.

Currently, European NATO member states are in a paradoxical situation, with certain items of capacity in excess (particularly infantry combat vehicles) and glaring shortfalls in other areas. These shortfalls are not tied to land forces alone, of course. For example, while difficulties related to strategic aerial transport should be corrected with continued procurement of the A400-M common European platform, many states depend either on extremely expensive outsourcing agreements with the private sector or on help from allies with C-5 and C-17 transport aircraft in their fleet inventory. Another well-known example is the shortage of UAVs, leading to almost exclusive dependence on the United States for battlefield intelligence from such platforms, as was the case in Libya and at the start of the French operation
in Mali.

Helicopters are in particularly short supply. NATO's experience in Afghanistan has shown their importance in a broad range of missions including timely transport, convoy protection, fire support, and intelligence gathering. Operation Unified Protector also underlined the full extent of their importance for strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's army in 2011 and in providing very close support for the rebel forces.31

Despite their proven utility, there are simply too few helicopters and crews in NATO armies. Note the British experience in Afghanistan: At the time of its initial deployment in Helmand in 2005-06, the UK command had 8 Apaches and 10 utility helicopters. Parliament soon became concerned about the insufficient number and availability of helicopters for a range of different missions.32 During the following years, the number of helicopters deployed grew continuously, reaching a peak of 35 in 2011. Even so, the Ministry of Defence had to outsource private helicopter services for delivery of supplies to their troops at Helmand bases, at an estimated cost of £4 million per month.33

Moreover, the helicopter fleets generally lack interoperability. European allies have two main types of new-generation utility helicopters, which are slowly being brought into service: the AgustaWestland Merlin HM1 and the NH90. A total of 58 Merlins have been ordered by three countries (Italy, Denmark, and Portugal), while 270 of the NH90s have been contracted for eight different countries.34 Both models are more complex than their predecessors and capable of a wider range of tasks, resulting in higher costs and, in turn, smaller orders. At the same time, several former Warsaw Pact members (namely Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia) still use old Soviet Mil Mi-8s, Mi-17s, or Mi-24s. A declaration of intent was signed in 2009 to speed up work on compatibility between these helicopters and NATO's standard for its helicopters, but the economic crisis has hindered progress.35

Finally, there is no joint multinational helicopter command, and few NATO nations have the resources, including pilots, for complex air-land operations involving large numbers of helicopters. Moreover, the NATO standard of 180 hours of flying time per year is rarely met. Pilots in Italy, Germany, and Spain log an average of about 100 hours and Polish pilots fly only about 40 hours, which is complemented somewhat by training on simulators.36 Here again, cost is a major consideration. According to one officer, the only way of ensuring adequate train- ing for French pilots to deploy in operations was an appeal to superiors on the need to meet the NATO requirement.37

Recently, increased efforts have been made to enhance synergies, increase exchange programs for pilots, conduct joint exercises, and develop compatible doctrines. But gaps remain, including the pressing need for allied agreement on the requirements tied to the future development of a heavy-transport helicopter.

Lessons from the Past Decade

After a decade of crisis management and peacekeeping, the return to war in the early 2000s has had a lasting effect on allied land forces. Whereas the contingents deployed to the Balkans-the Implementation, Stabilization, and Kosovo Forces-thought in terms of stabilization and reconstruction, the turning point came with the engagement in Iraq, and then again in Afghanistan. In both cases, existing military resources and doctrines were ill-suited to the complexities of those environments and no longer attuned to the demands of the kind of asymmetric warfare allied land forces faced.

Forces were maladapted to the specificities of this new warfare on two counts. First, there was an urgent need to update materiel with a view to protecting forces. Second, there was a pressing need to face the challenge of a different environment. From a doctrinal perspective, this required an understanding of how forces were to be used in COIN operations, which was unfamiliar territory to all but a few allies. This prompted urgent work on new field manuals by the allies, borrowing heavily from the US Army's 2006 Field Manual 3-24 Counterinsurgency.38 NATO got into the act as well, belatedly publishing the Allied Joint Doctrine for Counterinsurgency (COIN)-AJP-3.4.4 in February 2011. While describing the need for a "comprehensive approach" involving multiple civilian, political, and military organizations and agencies in the COIN effort, the document focuses, not surprisingly, on the political role played by land forces in this asymmetric environment.39

Undoubtedly, the most significant takeaway from allied armies' experience in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the expertise of land forces has to be extended to new domains. Originally devised simply to coerce the enemy, armies in these environments will now have responsibilities across a broad spectrum and, hence, will need additional capabilities to address them effectively. This means combining multiple approaches to accomplishing strategic goals, emphasizing decentralized command and control, effectively training indigenous forces and, in general, being willing to work in a joint-forces setting and in conjunction with other ministries to provide security in distinct regions, reassure local populations, and rebuild social and governing institutions to reattach the population to a legitimate political authority.

Another key capability that has already proved its worth is the security forces assistance mission. Successful training missions can help prevent crises, help failed states recover, shorten intervention times, and facilitate the withdrawal of foreign allied forces.

From 2004 to 2011, NATO Training Mission-Iraq trained more than 15,000 personnel with less than 200 trainers. The NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) has been even more successful. At its peak, NTM-A employed 2,800 trainers and was working with 34,000 Afghans across 70 training sites. Even today, there are 1,900 personnel from 39 nations, and on any given day, more than 20,000 personnel are being trained.

Before NTM-A was operational, only a third of Afghan soldiers met NATO marksmanship standards. Today, that figure is 97 percent. The NTM-A's desired end state is one of Afghan ownership. Today, 95 percent of all conventional operations and 98 percent of all special operations are conducted by Afghan military and security personnel. And while allied and partner forces have helped create a space in which a fledging army in Afghanistan could get its feet on the ground, it is the training mission that will ultimately provide the Afghans with the capacity to secure their own nation. All of this requires boots on the ground.

The NATO Response Force

After years of discussion regarding the rationale, effectiveness, and role of the NATO Response Force (NRF), it has the potential to be a catalyst for maintaining a modern, allied land force.40 Conceived as a multinational joint force, the NRF is intended to provide a robust and rapidly deployable coalition force to meet a range of missions, from the evacuation of civilians to a high-intensity engagement. The makeup of the NRF is straightforward: individual nations make contributions to the force structure for one year while a multinational rapid response command is kept on standby. Once a command's readiness is certified, it is set to perform the tasks entrusted to it by the alliance. The NRF is also important as a setting for major live exercises. The most recent, Steadfast Jazz 2013, brought together some 6,000 troops in Poland. While there is still considerable discussion about the NRF's potential uses, the force is nevertheless a formidable resource that ensures basic levels of training, available manpower, and military capacity.

However, the present state of the NRF reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the current state of allied armed forces. For 2014, the land component of the NRF involves 12 allied countries and one partner state, Ukraine. The challenge is keeping the dedicated forces operationally prepared for possible deployment at short notice. Here, the main problem is that the NRF command is not directly in charge of the units that can be assigned to it, which are spread out among contributing nations. In addition, there is the problem that certain capacities-such as helicopters or UAVs-are missing or insufficient in number.

According to some analysts, however, the real issue is somewhat different. The NRF is viewed by some in the alliance as not so much a resource for actual use as a test bed for increasing interoperability among alliance partners. From this viewpoint, the NRF is about allied forces getting acquainted with each other, training under shared procedures, and exploring new operational possibilities. The NRF thus offers a platform for operational convergence, promoting a common spirit through a network of certified units.41

The NRF is particularly important in relation to the upcoming withdrawal from Afghanistan and the apparent end of alliance forces' major foreign engagements. It can help ensure that standards are maintained and that some percent of the forces are kept in a state of readiness. Participation in exercises and the mandatory certification process also ensure that financial resources are earmarked by governments. Finally, the NRF process allows alliance forces the unique opportunity to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, with an important trickle-down effect on their respective militaries.


The ongoing reforms in European armies were initially nurtured in the 1990s by a number of illusions, starting with the idea that land force-intensive wars were a thing of the past and, in turn, that peacekeeping or peacebuilding missions were going to predominate future land force use. These reforms thus faced the challenges of governments giving even greater priority to domestic programs and of a major economic crisis in recent years. The result: cost-saving became the principal consideration, with the brunt of the related cuts mostly borne by member states' land forces. The low level of overall strength they have now reached leaves them weakened and even jeopardizes their overall coherence. Facing on the one hand demanding deployments over the past decade and, on the other, continual attempts at reorganization and transformation, it is hardly surprising that, while Europe's allies have an abundance of manpower, in 2012 they had some 1.56 million soldiers under arms, but less than 5 percent really deployable.

Concentrating on core combat capabilities at the expense of combat support functions such as logistics and engineering initially made it possible for defense ministries to continue making substantial contributions to alliance military missions. However, the shortfalls are now apparent, with the major European land powers (France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, followed by Italy and Spain) struggling to maintain the necessary component parts that constitute a land force capable of joint air-land operations. They are now mere "sample" forces, kept at a level of numbers and materiel that makes them increasingly irrelevant as individual nation-state combatants.

How might the future look, then? One possible model now being touted is that of the 2013 French-led operation in Mali. With Paris in the lead and its forces with resources in locations in and around the zone of conflict, NATO and EU allies were able to support the French operation by providing additional needed capabilities such as UAVs, airlift, and intelligence. But this model might not be so easily duplicated, requiring a political leadership, like the French, willing to assert its strategic will and have sufficient deployable combat power both to address the contingency and be the core element around which allies can help fill in missing operation pieces. Whether this coalition of the willing can be a true model for future force planning is far from clear.42

But as Western armies have discovered-in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon with Hezbollah-dealing with irregular forces is operationally difficult, complex, and resource intensive. This has generated reluctance among both politicians and publics to deploy their forces, especially their land forces, far afield and for a long time. Not surprisingly, this has in turn led governments and strategists to look to high-tech weaponry and special forces conducting quick in-and-out strikes to carry the load. But, like the Mali model, there are limits to what US General H. R. McMaster calls "global swat teams" can accomplish.43

Nevertheless, a fundamental reality of war and politics remains: at times, only the physical presence of land forces can offer the hope of resolving a crisis and stabilizing the situation on the ground. These forces' adaptability and capacity to engage in a broad range of missions is thus part of the resources that government leaders must still have if they hope to meet their respective countries' larger foreign policy goals.44 War weary or not, NATO members are ignoring tactical and strategic realities-and, indeed, history-if they believe that continuing to drain their land forces of numbers and capabilities is either wise or sustainable.


1. Jonathan Marcus, "Nato Commander Philip Breedlove on Post-Afghan Future," BBC News, July 3, 2013,

2. Centre de Doctrine d'Emploi des Forces, "Stratégie, ‘opératique' et tactique: La place des forces terrestres" [‘Operatic' Strategy and Tactics: The Place of Ground Forces], December 2005,; Charles Krulak, "The Strategic Corporal: Leadership in the Three Block War," Marines Maga-zine, January 1999,; and Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (London: Allen Lane, 2005).

3. Elrick Irastorza, "Forces armées: peut-on encore réduire un format ‘juste insuffisant'?" [Armed Forces: Can a "Just Enough" Format Be Further Reduced?] (French Senate, Commission on Foreign Affairs and Defense, July 18, 2012),

4. Christian Mölling, "Europe without Defense," Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, November 2011,

5. Ben Barry, "The Age of Gloom? Implications for Key NATO Armies," Land Warfare 33, no. 4 (July 2013): 3,

6. Frederick Hodges, "Ensuring That Land Forces Remain Decisive for NATO," Army Magazine, May 2013, 51-54,

7. The economic crisis has accentuated the already-marked reductions in defense budgets. Currently, all European NATO members except Poland are following this trend. Average defense expenditure for member states is 1.6 percent, with considerable disparities. According to the latest official NATO figures, 2 countries (Greece and the United Kingdom) meet the objective of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense (excluding pensions), 8 countries (Albania, Croatia, Estonia, France, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and Turkey) spend 1.5 to 2 percent, 12 countries spend 1 to 1.5 percent (Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia), and only 3 spend less than 1 percent on defense (Lithuania, Luxembourg, and Spain). See North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Public Diplomacy Division, "Financial and Economic Data Relation to NATO Defense," press release, April 13, 2012, 2012_04/20120413_PR_CP_2012_047_rev1.pdf.

8. Olivier de France and Nick Whitney, Étude comparative des livres blancs des 27 états membres de l'Union européenne : pour la définition d'un cadre européen [Comparative Study of White Papers of the 27 Member States of the EU: To Define a European Framework] (Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l'Ecole Militaire, 2012),

9. This partly reflects information given by Antonio Missiroli, ed., Enabling the Future: European Military Capabilities 2013-2025: Challenges and Avenues (report no. 16, Institute for Security Studies, May 2013), 9,

10. This is particularly true in Southeast Europe, according to Anton Bebler, Sodobni vojaški izzivi [Security Challenges in South Eastern Europe], (Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia, November 2013), 39-50,

11. The British model nevertheless prioritizes the role of 30,000 trained reservists within an integrated army, bringing total numbers to 112,000. See UK Ministry of Defence, Transforming the British Army: An Update (July 2013), 18, /general/Army2020_Report.pdf.

12. International Institute for Strategic Studies, "Chapter 4: Europe," in The Military Balance 2012 (London: ISIS, March 2012), 112, 143.

13. The military planning law also entails a reduction of land forces by 6,000 and the loss of a joint-force brigade. See Gwenegan Bui, "Avis relatif à la programmation militaire pour les années 2014 à 2019 et portant diverses dispositions concernant la défense et la sécurité nationale" [Notice on the Military Planning for the Years 2014 -19 and Containing Various Provisions on Defense and National security] (no. 1540, French National Assembly, November 2013), 18-19,

14. UK Ministry of Defence, Transforming the British Army: An Update, 6.

15. See Her Majesty's Government, Securing Britain in an Age of Security: Strategic Defense and Security Review, (October 2010), 24, 19,

16. Federal Ministry of Defence, Die Neuausrichtung der Bundeswehr [The Reorientation of the Bundeswehr] (March 2013), 39,

17. Patrycja Bukalska, "The Polish Army: New Armor for a New Mission," Visegard, October 5, 2013,

18. This trend was reflected in the establishment of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters in June 2007. According to its website, its "co-location with the Allied Command Operations (ACO) strongly affirms the NSHQ's function and support in providing Special Operations advice to SACEUR." See NATO, "NSHQ: About,"

19. Hence the need for innovative reforms in this area. See Guillaume Lasconjarias, Send the Reserve! New Ways to Support NATO through Reserve Forces, (research paper no. 99, NATO Defense College, 2013), .php?icode=398.

20. Interview with Peter van Uhm, Défense et Sécurité Internationale, no. 74 (October 2011): 40-43.

21. Federal Ministry of Defence, Die Neuausrichtung der Bundeswehr, 35-45.

22. Andrew Dorman et al., The Implications of Military Spending Cuts for NATO's Largest Members (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, July 2012), 12, /files/papers/2012//military%20spending%20nato%20odonnell/military%20spending%20nato%20odonnell%20pdf.pdf.

23. With initial delivery of 250 tanks and a subsequent batch of an additional 750, the aim is to replace the venerable M48 Patton.

24. Dominik P. Jankowski, Beyond Air and Missile Defense: Modernization of the Polish Armed Forces (issue brief no. 132, Center for European Policy Analysis, September 5, 2013), /default/files/documents/CEPA%20Issue%20Brief%20No.%20132_Beyond%20air%20and%20missile%20defense.pdf. See also Andrew A. Michta, "Polish Hard Power: Investing in the Military as Europe Cuts Back," AEI National Security Outlook (December 2013),

25. Acquiring equipment from national manufacturers rather than off the shelf or through participation in multinational programs is not wholly disadvantageous, however. Consider the French Army's armored combat infantry vehicle [véhicule blindé de combat d'infanterie,], which, at a unit cost of €4 million, is six times more expensive than its predecessor. However, the new vehicle proved its worth during Operation Serval in Mali, enhancing troops' effectiveness by offering increased protection and fire support. See Jacques Marie Bourget, "‘On y allait pour leur casser la figure', déclare le Général Barrera" ["We Went There to Hit Them Hard," Said General Barrera], Mondafrique, November 22, 2013, declare-le-general-barrera.

26. Jean-Jacques Mercier, "La reconstruction des APC, deux approches" [The Reconstruction of APC, Two Approaches], Défense et Sécurité Internationale, no. 67 (February 2011): 93-97. The British Army still has more than 1,500 FV432s, including almost 1,000 that were involved in this upgrade between 2005 and 2011 at a cost of nearly £230 million.

27. See Mark Philips, Exercise Agile Warrior and the Future Development of UK Land Forces (RUSI, May 2011), 15, /downloads/assets/agilewarrior.pdf; and Barry, "The Age of Gloom?"

28. The procurement procedures are very cumbersome in some nations. In France, according to official statistics issued by the integrated structure in charge of ensuring operational readiness of materiel for land operations (the SIMMT), the lead time is "7 months, on average, to purchase a complete item of materiel by adapted procedure . . . and 18 months on average for an agreement regarding maintenance." See "Le bilan contractuel" [The Contract Review], Les échos de la SIMMT, no. 6 (February 2012): 2-5,

29. Chris Maughan, The Impact of UORs on the UK Defence Industry, (RUSI, February 2009), 90-93,

30. Stephen Gilbert, Improving the Survivability of NATO Ground Forces (North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly, October 13, 2013), 5,

31. Apache attack helicopters operating from the HMS Ocean logged about 50 sorties, firing 99 Hellfire missiles and 4,800 30-millimeter shells against a total of 116 targets. French helicopters launched from landing platform docks destroyed more than 550 targets in 40 sorties. The Tigre, operating mostly at night, fired 1,500 rockets, and the Gazelle shot 430 high subsonic optical remote-guided, tube-launched missiles. See Royal Aeronautical Society, Lessons Offered from the Libya Air Campaign (London, July 2012), 10-11,

32. Parliament, House of Commons Defence Committee, The UK Deployment to Afghanistan: Government Response to the Committee's Fifth Report Session 2005-06 (June 13, 2006), 5, /1211/1211.pdf.

33. Caroline Wyatt, "Crucial Role of Helicopters in Afghanis-tan," BBC News, March 2, 2010, /8545695.stm.

34. It should be noted that delivery times are long and cancellations or reductions could further limit the final total. For France, delivery of NH90s will continue until 2024, meaning that almost-obsolescent helicopters will have to be kept until 2030. See French National Assembly Committee on National Defense and Armed Forces, Compte rendu n°13 [Report no. 13], October 16, 2013,

35. Enhancing NATO's Operational Helicopter Capabilities: The Need for International Standardisation (Joint Air Power Competence Center, August 2012), 10, /2012-10-16-ENH.pdf.

36. Ibid., 7.

37. Private interview with a French officer in Marseille, France, April 15, 2013.

38. Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, Headquarters, Department of the Army, June 16, 2006,

39. See North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Allied Joint Doctrine for Counterinsurgency (COIN)-AJP-3.4.4 (February 2011), 1-5, "It should invigorate existing processes and strengthen relationships at the joint, inter-agency and multinational levels. A comprehensive approach should also consider actors beyond government, such as NGOs, IOs and others all conduct activities that have a bearing on the overall outcome. This is particularly relevant for land forces at all levels where they should expect to operate alongside these actors."

40. For more on the NRF and related topics, see Guillaume Lasconjarias, The NRF: From a Key Driver of Transformation to a Laboratory of the Connected Forces Initiative (research paper no. 88, Rome, Italy, NATO Defense College, January 2013), www.ndc.

41. Anthony King, The Transformation of Europe's Armed Forces: From the Rhine to Afghanistan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 92.

42. Sidney Freedberg, "The Army Cuts: 3 Truths, 4 Fallacies," Breaking Defense, February 24, 2014, /02/the-army-force-cuts-3-truths-4-fallacies.

43. Ibid.

44. The tensions and violence in the Central African Republic are a case in point, requiring France to deploy several hundred extra troops.

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