Defending NATO in the High North
Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)
Center for European Policy Analysis (Washington, D.C.)
The alliance’s expansion to include two large Baltic Seapowers changes the military map. It will give NATO operational depth and logistic routes that it previously lacked. When Sweden and Finland were non-aligned, the main route for NATO reinforcements heading to Finnmark, the northernmost part of Norway, had to follow the single coastal road, the E6, along the Norwegian shoreland. Any Russian stand-off weaponry, or special forces, could, with limited effort, strike the E6 route and cut off Northern Norway, leaving it open to a rapid Russian advance. This lack of operational depth and NATO’s reliance on a single route to reinforce the High North has long offered an opportunity for a Russian fait accompli attack early in any conflict with NATO. A sustained fight to defend an area needs a land-based supply route to maintain the flow of equipment, logistics, and reinforcements, as these represent thousands of tons to be hauled into the operational area. Airborne or air-transported troops can only sustain a fight over a limited time. The recent battle for Hostomel Airport outside of Kyiv, where Russian airborne troops were beaten by Ukrainian ad hoc formations, shows the short duration airborne forces can sustain a fight without land-based reinforcements and a logistic tail.
Kallberg, Jan, "Defending NATO in the High North" (2022). West Point Research Papers. 660.
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