The new Joint Support and Enabling Command, based in Ulm, Germany, achieved initial operating capability on Sept, 17, 2019, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu announced.
The command has its work cut out for it. A recent report revealed just how vulnerable NATO’s eastern flank is to a sudden Russian assault -- and how important armored forces could be in the alliance’s defensive efforts.
Russia keeps around 760 tanks in units within quick striking distance of NATO's Baltic members. NATO countries together keep around 130 tanks in the same region -- and around 90 of those are American M-1s on their temporary rotation.
In 2016 RAND war-gamed a Russian invasion of the Baltics. In RAND's scenario, the Russian forces quickly overrun lightly-armed NATO forces. The Western alliance quickly deploys helicopters and air-mobile troops to confront the Russian advance. But NATO tanks are too slow to arrive.
"What cannot get there in time are the kinds of armored forces required to engage their Russian counterparts on equal terms, delay their advance, expose them to more-frequent and more-effective attacks from air- and land-based fires and subject them to spoiling counterattacks," RAND explained.
Across NATO there’s no shortage of tanks and other heavy forces. But very few of NATO’s tanks are available on short notice to defend the alliance’s eastern flank. RAND counted just 129 NATO tanks that realistically could participate in a “short-notice Baltic scenario.”