Logistics: Organized NATO Chaos

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August 4, 2022: NATO and non-NATO nation contributing weapons, ammunition and equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces realized early in the war that they had to create an efficient organization to coordinate the delivery of material to the Ukrainian border as well as arrange to have Ukrainian troops trained in their use, By March, NATO (mainly the U.S. and Britain) set up the ECCU/IDCC (EUCOM Control Center-Ukraine/International Donor Coordination Center) at a NATO base in southwest Germany (Stuttgart).

EUCOM is United States European Command, which was originally created to coordinate operations, including logistics, for all U.S. forces in Europe during and after World War II, European Command or EUCOM, coordinated most of the imported supplies and equipment provided to allied forces in Europe. In the 1950s, with the creation of NATO, EUCOM expanded its logistics capabilities. This continued after the Cold War ended and the Russian threat evaporated. That meant most American forces in Europe were withdrawn to the United States or other parts of the world. EUCOM had less work to do but was still needed, especially since bases in Germany handled air movement of troops to or from Iraq, Afghanistan and other distant war zones.

After the Russian limited attack on Ukraine in 2014, EUCOM was there to handle shipment of weapons and military trainers to Ukraine. When the Russians invaded in February EUCOM was where military aid was sent for Ukraine. As more NATO and non-NATO countries made contributions, ECCU/IDCC established their own base at a German facility which soon included representatives from 26 NATO and non-NATO nations responding to Ukraine requests for weapons and equipment. There is also a Ukraine representative to coordinate deliveries to the Ukrainian border and arrange to have trained Ukrainian operators ready. Most training takes place in Germany but some is done in Poland, Britain and the United States. The EUCOM center makes sure Ukraine has trained personnel ready when new types of weapons arrive at the Ukrainian border. Many of the donated weapons are Cold War era Russian type items that new NATO nations are replacing with new Western equipment. The Ukrainians already have personnel that know how to operate this but new items require some trained operators.

The weapons supplied are becoming more complex, to include guided missiles, warplanes and even small warships that can be moved to Ukrainian via a network of rivers and canals. The Ukrainian have a lot of qualified personnel, some of them recent volunteers for military service, who learn operation of the new items fast, often faster than their trainers expected. The EUCOM center keeps track of this and schedules the arrival of new weapons and trained Ukrainian operators to arrive at the border transfer locations at the same time.

Britain is also setting a training program for new Ukrainian combat troops in Britain that can turn out 10,000 trained troops every 120 days. Ukraine is supplying untrained personnel for this program, which is in addition to the numerous technical training operations in Poland, Germany, Britain and the United States. Ukraine does not expect to expel the Russians quickly and is training and equipping troops for a long war to expel all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian troops are doing all the fighting but with superior logistical support they are much better prepared for this fight than the Russians.

NATO and non-NATO nations send logistic personnel to the EUCOM center to track the progress of items from their country to Germany where it is moved by rail or aircraft to locations on the Ukrainian border, where Ukrainian vehicles move the material into Ukraine and distribute it to the Ukrainian troops. The main transfer point is in Poland. The Ukrainians have to be careful how they move the new equipment through Ukraine to storage sites or direct to combat zones. The Russians have tried to attack these shipments with missiles but have not been very successful at it. For the Ukrainians moving these shipments safely is more urgent and important than it is for the Russian invaders.

The result of this effort is that it provided Ukraine with much more effective logistic support than Russian forces in Ukraine receive. Russia does not have access to a worldwide network of suppliers. Nearly all Russian logistical support comes from Russian sources. This often includes older and often defective weapons. NATO always had more effective logistical support than the Russians. This was also the case during World War I and II when Russia had problems handling local logistics as well as aid from Western allies.

In Ukraine this disparity in logistical support has proved to be a key advantage for the Ukrainians, who have, since the 1990s, sought to adopt a Western style of logistical support. Russian invasion plans depended on a quick victory because Russia did not have the logistical capabilities to handle a longer war. That turned out to be a major flaw in the Russian war plans and now they are feeling the impact of superior Ukrainian logistics more and more. This has long been expressed another way; “amateurs study tactics while professionals study logistics”.

There is a separate NATO coordination center for services, mainly information collected by NATO nation electronic collection and surveillance aircraft operating in NATO air space but are able to cover much of Ukraine. Similar services are provided by NATO nation space satellites. Ukraine, like anyone else, has access to commercial space satellite images but can also get warning from NATO if some of those commercial satellite images are misleading. This doesn’t happen as much now because commercial satellites have improved to supply many those verification systems. NATO nations also collect useful information via embassy staff and separate intelligence agency information collection efforts. All this information is available to NATO members in wartime and Ukrainian access to this is one reason why Ukraine is often referred to as nearly a NATO member. Ukraine plans to complete the joining NATO process after the war is over. The outcome is still in doubt, at least in terms of how long it will last. The intel advantage provided by NATO, including the more accurate and reliable weapons and munitions provided by NATO nations appears to be providing a decisive advantage.

 


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