Europe's Readiness Problem

Why the Continent's Militaries Are Slow—and What to Do About It

Latvian soldiers during a NATO drill in Adazi, Latvia, October 2017. Ints Kalnins / REUTERS

Say Latvia were invaded. Its allies would, naturally, want to respond immediately. First out would most likely be NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, or VJTF, a 5,000-troop rapid-reaction group. Together with NATO air power, the VJTF would quickly deploy to assist the Latvians and the 1,100-troop-strong Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup stationed in the country. After that, however, Latvia’s allies would struggle to quickly dispatch a large follow-up force. Logistics, unavailable troops and equipment, decision-making: all of these factors would slow the allies down.

None of these problems will be solved by the signing of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation. PESCO’s goal is to develop European defense capabilities for EU military operations through a variety of longer-term programs. Although Europhiles may be rejoicing over the agreement, Europe has a much more pressing need: it has to get its forces ready to fight. According to a

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