America’s next president has to prioritize military mobility in his transatlantic agenda.
As the U.S. presidential election looms large over American foreign policy, the future of transatlantic security remains uncertain. Regardless of the result, military mobility must be a core priority for the next administration’s European security and defense agenda going forward.
Military mobility — the ability to move forces and material quickly and safely across Europe — is essential to NATO’s recommitment to its core function of providing credible deterrence and collective defense. Effective military mobility provides political leaders with options ahead of and during crises to avoid a fait accompli – a worst-case scenario in which an adversary could occupy a piece of NATO territory before Allied forces even arrive. Already recognized by NATO and the EU as essential to transatlantic security, military mobility is about more than physical movement. It involves advance planning, aligning resources, securing critical infrastructure, addressing legal barriers to cross-border movement, and enhancing coordination across the public and private sectors.
While progress has been made — as highlighted in a recent EU report — military mobility is still far from seamless. Despite conventional and hybrid threats from Russia and China, the transatlantic alliance has failed to sufficiently prioritize and fund military mobility: proposed EU funding has decreased from €6.5 bn to €1.5 bn. The coronavirus pandemic will diminish defense and infrastructure spending and continue to command political leaders’ time and attention. Yet, as the security environment evolves and intensifies, the transatlantic community should double down on the military mobility agenda.
To help drive that agenda, CEPA recently hosted a Military Mobility Workshop, which brought together more than one hundred key stakeholders from transatlantic governments, NATO, the European Union, industry, think tanks, and civil society to test and strengthen military mobility in Europe. The workshop convened virtually to assess the strategic and operational barriers to moving forces in peacetime in five geographic scenarios: (1) the Nordic-Baltic region; (2) the Suwałki Corridor, (3) the Focșani Gate and the Black Sea region, (4) the Western Balkans, and (5) Libya via the Mediterranean.
While the final recommendations from the workshop will be published in a final report in January 2021, here are five interim takeaways for transatlantic decisionmakers:
Incentivizing greater investment in infrastructure, much of which is privately owned and operated, and making better use of existing funding, is also critical. The Three Seas Initiative — which promotes economic growth and security and funds infrastructure projects among 12 EU member states along the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas — and the EU’s TEN-T program could prove decisive for connecting Europe to NATO’s Eastern Flank and establishing more secure transportation routes.
Military mobility is crucial to the transatlantic alliance’s ability to maintain its strategic edge in an increasingly contested world. As Washington and Europe reset their collective agenda after the U.S. elections, they must leverage the resources, institutional frameworks, and political will at their disposal to make military mobility happen.
Photo: NATO military mobility exercise, October 18, 2018. Credit: NATOChannel
WP Post Author
November 5, 2020
Common Crisis is a CEPA analytical series on the implications of COVID-19 for the transatlantic relationship. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.