Operation Atlantic Resolve
Updated: Sep 11, 2021
Operation Atlantic Resolve refers to the ongoing military efforts of the United States in response to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, given the illegal actions in the Donbas region. This operation is a “demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and the enduring peace and stability of the region.” Funding for this operation comes from the European Defense Initiative (EDI) which was launched in 2014. Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) occurred in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Since then, the United States, partnered with NATO, has taken steps to enhance the deterrence posture along NATO’s eastern borders. Deployment of troops and equipment acts as a show of western power to Russia to enforce the idea that escalating the conflict is inadvisable. One goal is to create a line of U.S. forces that spans from the Black to the Baltic Sea. Decision-makers in Washington believe that Russia is attempting to destabilize Ukraine, a country with western sympathies and alignments, by supplying separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine with arms. There are two primary regions of focus in OAR, the northern component and the southern, although the northern area is the greater recipient of resources and deployments. The northern states include Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia while the southern states include Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, and the Czech Republic. The threat of Russian aggression is greatest in the Baltics and Poland, hence the focus of resources and forces are concentrated in the region. New forces were added, and those that were already in the region were augmented. The full range of capabilities were bolstered, including air, naval, and ground presence. Initially in 2014, the force consisted of four companies which were rotated every ninety days. U.S. Army and Air Force (USAF) personnel were sent to the northern countries to conduct military training and exercises with partner countries.
Understanding the history can often help inform why decisions are made and when. Ukraine is not currently a NATO member, however at a summit in 2008 in Bucharest, NATO stated intentions to include Ukraine and Georgia in the future. Ukraine has been an ally of the United States and the West since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Poland became a full NATO member in 1999, followed by Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia shortly after in 2004 with another wave of NATO expansion. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been outspoken in his opposition of further NATO expansion and viewed these most recent additions as a threat to his sphere of influence. Putin’s actions in Crimea can be interpreted as his own form of deterrence against further expansion of the West into Russia’s borders.
Crimea was annexed in 2014, and it is unlikely that the territory will be returned to Ukraine. The invasion was an effective reminder for “the NATO nations on Russia’s borders of the benefits of the military alliance.” It is important to note that the countries protected under OAR are protected by Article 5 of NATO, something that Ukraine does not have. Article 5 states that if any NATO ally is the victim of an attack, then every other NATO alliance member must consider this violent attack as an attack against all members and take the actions they deem necessary to assist the attacked ally nation. This has so far effectively deterred Russia and protected Poland and the Baltics, yet Ukraine is left vulnerable. Since then, two cities in the Donbas region of Ukraine have been claimed by pro-Russian separatists and attempted to cede. While internationally recognized as part of Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic are backed by Russia. Russia most likely does not want to accept these two territories into their governance, but continuing the conflict distracts Ukraine from moving further with NATO membership. These actions also help support the perception of Russia as a strong and powerful nation both the world and internally.
Strategic and Technical Problems
The framework of the research and analysis conducted is based on intelligence. Accurate intel is necessary for holistically addressing the following issues and reaching successful solutions. Each of the challenges discussed below should be met with intelligence to best achieve mission success and avoid further issues.
Several strategic and tactical problems arise during Operation Atlantic Resolve. The main issue to be addressed is that of the terrain aspect. This includes analyzing the locations of the bases, both NATO/U.S. and Russian forces, the major roads or railways available, the topographical features, and even the climate. Other strategic problems stem from operating within several foreign countries and efforts to communicate effectively.
The United States has soldiers stationed across Eastern Europe in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and more recently in Ukraine as well. Approximately 300 soldiers from the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade are now stationed in Yavoriv. This base is within the Lviv Oblast that is on the far western edge of Ukraine and is only 25 kilometers from the Polish border. Given the distance of this base from the Donbas region, about 1338 kilometers, the United States forces would be completely unable to respond to a Russian attack in either Donetsk or Luhansk with enough time to have any significant effect on the outcome. Russia has recently moved a significant number of troops and assault vehicles to the border of Russia and Ukraine. Included in these movements are 1,300 tanks, 380 multiple launch rocket systems, and 3,700 drones. While Russia claims to have done this as a military training exercise, the threat of violence so near to the border could not be effectively met by U.S. troops from across the country. Putin has recalled those on the Ukrainian border back to permanent bases, although this pullout is yet to be seen. Russia also extends their threat farther west given their exclave of Kaliningrad. Located between Poland and Lithuania, this could be a threat should Russia decide to move forward with military operations and attack a NATO member, especially since Russia has “deployed Iskander short-range nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad.” Current levels of NATO and U.S. presence should be enough to deter further Russian escalation, but Kaliningrad could pose a threat in the coming years.
In addition to understanding where the bases are located, it is also important to note the transportation routes between bases and areas of conflict. Within Ukraine, there are two major highways that span the entire country east to west. The more southern of the two routes directly connects Lviv oblast to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Given available data of road times, covering the distance would take approximately 17 hours. If transporting troops and equipment by rail, Ukraine has similar train routes as roads. While not as direct as by road, there is a somewhat clear rail line from Lviv to the pro-Russian separatist regions.
Roads and other such infrastructure are informed by the topography. The Baltics have a relatively even elevation, which allows for ease of transportation and operations. Poland’s geography is varied; the regions nearest to the Baltic Sea are mostly level, with a few outcroppings of mountains and rivers. The land becomes more mountainous closer to the border of Ukraine. This could prove difficult for expedited transportation into Ukraine seeing as traveling over mountains is much more time consuming and dangerous. Then, into Ukraine, the elevation is higher in the west and tapers off into the east. However, Donetsk is located in a mountainous region and Luhansk is in the valleys to the north of the mountain range. The mountains provide a guideline for how an attack will likely take place, as there are far fewer available entry points and weaknesses in defense. The geography will inform viable attack routes. The climate can also affect military plans and decisions. Given the typical winter climate in this part of Europe, it is unlikely that anything significant will happen in the winter and fighting during the rainiest months is also inadvisable.
Another strategic issue arises from operating in several foreign countries. Movements, equipment, and every action must be approved by each nation the U.S. troops pass through or are stationed in. Multinational transportation of entire military units is a logistical challenge. Each country has different regulations and requirements to be met, and it needs to be addressed far enough in advance to allocate enough time and resources to meet their needs. Typically, there are six major hurdles to overcome when attempting troop transportation. These include: obtaining diplomatic clearances, arranging for safe transport of ammunition and fuel, arranging host-nation escorts, finalizing secured staging areas, receiving march credits and movement bids, and meeting oversized or outsized movement requirements. Of these challenges, acquiring a diplomatic clearance is the most important, as it is “required from each sovereign nation to gain approval for the movement of U.S. Soldiers and equipment through its country.” Without these documents, international transport is impossible. Logistically this can prove to be difficult seeing as every nation has different requirements and timetables for their clearances.
Communication is another strategic issue that must be addressed properly. Effective communication of intentions is crucial in a situation such as OAR that could lead to dangerous escalation. The operation could have been disastrous if it had been “erroneously perceived as a precursor to violence, a unilateral U.S. effort, or provocative to the Russians.” Transparency to the American public and proper media coverage has also been a critical element to Operation Atlantic Resolve in terms of combating misinformation campaigns. Often, tactical objectives and communication objectives align and ensure that the plan and the actual events in an operation are in sync. Communication to the media or public is not the only aspect that matters, as communication within the Army structure and other governments is prioritized. Teams and dedicated personnel are responsible for coordinating with host nation defense officials, international media, and other such positions.
The protagonist in the case of Operation Atlantic Resolve is very clearly the United States, at least from a western perspective. Alongside the U.S. the protagonist would also be NATO and the participating nations, such as the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine. The baseline objective is to bolster Ukraine and deter Russia from further violence in the Easter European theater. Additionally, the U.S. seeks to help Ukraine retain their territorial sovereignty from the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas. The United States and NATO are operating jointly to meet these objectives. To achieve this, the focus at the operational level is on “multinational training intended to increase allied interoperability, enhance shared understanding, and demonstrate freedom of movement along interior lines of the NATO alliance.” Given the importance of cooperation between member nations, the United States Department of Defense has participated in many joint operations of land, sea, and air.
Some examples of land operations include Exercise Saber Strike 14, in which 580 American troops along with Denmark, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Latvia, and Lithuania participated in a “company-level, live-fire field training exercise, multinational brigade command post exercise, and computer-assisted exercise, designed to help sustain U.S. and Baltic interoperability” or Exercise Flaming Sword 14, in which 140 U.S. Special Operations Command personnel with those from seven other European partners participated in a “multinational exercise to enhance Baltic Region and allied special operation forces interoperability.” Air operations to bolster regional interoperability include examples such as Air-to-Air Refueling Mission in support of NATO, NATO Baltic Air Policing, or USAF Aviation Detachment (AVDET) Rotation. Sea support can be seen by the examples of the USS Vella Gulf, or the USS Taylor being placed in the area. Special Operation exercises and training events also took place as multilateral and bilateral bolstering efforts.
Supporting and maintaining Ukraine is the primary goal, however a large part of United States objectives includes reinforcing diplomatic and military ties with other threatened nations in the region. Part of the messaging that the U.S. has attempted to convey is that “the United States takes seriously our obligations under Article 5 of the NATO alliance.” Ukraine may not yet be a part of NATO, but Article 5 covers Poland and the Baltics under its protection. Allies in the region can be assured that the U.S. is deeply committed and resolved to remain in support of Poland and the Baltics, should the conflict with Russia escalate. Some of the initial key tasks in 2015 included deploying at least one company each into the Baltics and Poland, establishing initial command and control stations, beginning public affairs, and attempting to continue the European Command (EUCOM) persistent presence plan in the region. Persistent Presence is a strategy that allows for “the identification and exploitation of opportunities that would likely be missed with a more sporadic and episodic engagement.” Deterring the Russian threat goes hand in hand with the continued efforts to support and strengthen the allies of the United States.
In terms of the moral, ethical, and legal viewpoints of the conflict, the United States and NATO still come out as the protagonists. The difference between morals and ethics is that morals can be viewed as societal norms, whereas ethics is more on an individual level. Morally, NATO is obligated to help deter Russia from Ukraine’s borders. While not legally obligated through Article 5, NATO does have to be morally accountable, given that since 2008 NATO has assured both Ukraine and Georgia that they would one day be a part of the alliance. NATO should be held accountable to that stated intention. Also, it is moral to uphold the norms of the United States being a global hegemon and intervening in European affairs in this manner. Legally, the United States and NATO are not obligated to Ukraine by Article 5 but do have significant existing diplomatic and military ties. NATO is legally bound to assist the Baltics and Poland if Russian aggression surpasses Ukraine’s borders. Ethically, on the individual level, it would be acceptable to enter into combat with Russian troops to fight for Ukraine’s sovereignty. Not only to fight for Ukraine, but against Russia, a regional hegemon, and a growing threat to the surrounding area. Given these factors, the protagonist/antagonist split is especially clear.
The antagonist of Operation Atlantic Resolve is clearly Russia. The Russian Federation, under Putin, is a rising regional hegemon and presents a lasting threat to the entire Eastern European region. Russia’s primary objective is not to annex Luhansk and Donetsk, but simply to show power both internationally and internally. Putin typically disregards Western institutions such as the EU and NATO and views them as lacking real enforcement powers. Russia seeks to show military dominance. Tensions have also likely stemmed from continued NATO expansion since Poland joined in 1999. The acceptance of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 2004 in yet another wave of NATO expansion was seen as a threat to the Russian sphere of influence and relations have continued to worsen since then.
Because of the successful annexation of Crimea, Russia has had access to a warm water port for their economic and strategic advantage. Economically, politically, or otherwise, Russia does not necessarily need or want to take on the additional territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, despite continuing to support and aid the pro-Russian separatists operating in the Donbas. Russia may also be prolonging the conflict to stop Ukraine from finally joining NATO by keeping them occupied with internal conflict and conflict with a much larger and more powerful state. Recently, Russia has moved a large number of soldiers and heavy machinery, such as tanks, to the Ukrainian border in what is claimed to be a simple routine training exercise. However, training exercise or not, this can be seen as an escalation of the threat and perhaps even a warning. The troops have since been ordered back from the border, although the pullout has yet to occur.
Understanding the opposition’s point of view and mindset is necessary for effective and accurate decision-making. Yet, even viewing the moral, ethical, and legal framework from the Russian perspective still puts them as the antagonist in OAR. Legally, invading Ukraine in 2014 during the annexation of Crimea, covertly operating in Luhansk and Donetsk and supporting the pro-Russian separatists violates Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Not only is Russia a member of the UN, it is also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. UN Charter Article 2(4) states that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Russia has directly and blatantly violated this by both threatening and using force against
Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Although, if Putin sees Western Liberal institutions as lacking in enforcement mechanisms, then breaking this international law would not matter to him. Morally, the initial invasion of Crimea may have been rationalized by a belief that having full access and control of Crimea’s warm water port would greatly benefit the economy and thereby the Russian people. Acting for the betterment of your nation is understandable, yet Russia still was in the wrong for invading and reclaiming the land of another sovereign nation. Ethically, many of the separatists in the Donbas view themselves as ethnically and culturally Russian, and simply want to rejoin their people. This is also understandable, yet still the use of force is inexcusable. Given these moral, ethical, and legal perspectives, it is still clear that the Russians are the antagonists whose objectives are to increase their own power and assert regional dominance.
Current Capabilities: Russia
To understand how best to use intel capabilities, it is necessary to first understand the existing conventional capabilities currently available to both the Russians and the United States. The Russians may make decisions at a much faster pace than the American military can, yet their traditional capabilities lag our own. Russia’s military is a modernizing force that is increasingly technological in character. They also rely on the use of Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs), which “gives Russia the capability to project its forces regionally with high speed and intensity to achieve desired tactical, operational, and strategic goals.” This formation is useful to the Russians because a BTG is built around a mission and can be tailored to best suit the mission goals.
While nowhere near as high as the United States allowance, Russia’s military budget is one of the highest in the world. This lends itself to significant capabilities available to the Russian army. One very large issue with the Russian Army is that the majority of those involved are on a contract, not as professional career military members. The term of service given by these contracts is only one year, so by the time the new members have received all the needed training, their window of usefulness is shortened to only about 6-8 months before they are demobilized.
The Russian military has several varieties of armored vehicles in their armored battalions. Some examples are the T90, T80, T72, BTR-90, BMP-3M, and the 9P126 Kornet. These armored vehicles have crews of 3 people and relatively similar ground speeds but differ in their combat roles. In terms of defensive capabilities, Russia has direct fire, missile, and electronic warfare abilities. MANPADS, or shoulder fired missiles, pose a significant threat to U.S. air forces. In the initial months of the conflict, “the Ukrainian military lost several helicopters, ground attack aircraft, and even a fully loaded troop transport all to MANPAD systems.” Several other missile launchers that the Russian Army possesses are the SA-11 Gadfly, which has a detection range of approximately 20 km and a reaction time of 18 seconds, and the slower but more powerful SA-10 Grumble, which is designed to protect against mass attacks of medium range ballistic missiles. The SA-10 has a detection range of up to 250 km, but the reaction time can take a full 48 hours. Russia has been especially successful with target acquisition abilities and has achieved the advantage of consistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) coverage over operational areas. The data picked up through layers of sensors feed directly into their target acquisition cycle. This proves very dangerous for the opposition.
Russia excels at electronic warfare and is absolutely taking advantage of this strength. NATO and U.S. forces rely heavily on maneuver warfare, which depends on asset synchronization and communication to work properly. Russia has successfully exploited this reliance on communication by bolstering their electronic warfare (EW) capabilities. These EW systems work by “shutting down communications and signals across a broad spectrum.” Jamming communications such as radio, or control systems, such as on an aircraft, can be detrimental to the U.S. The Russians are also adept at performing “direction finding of electromagnetic signals” from which they “have the ability to call accurate fire on enemy forces based on these electronic intercepts.” Cyber is also being continuously integrated into Russia's growing capabilities. Again, the U.S. dependence on computers and networks have opened additional vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks. Cyber requires very little risk on behalf of the perpetrator, so the Russian military can recruit non-military members for this task.
The Russian Army also possesses typical rocket and artillery systems to include a flamethrower-mounted tank and the SS-26 Stone (Iskander-M) which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads. They also have the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as part of their target acquisition cycles. These UAS capture both ISR and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) material. Reports from Ukraine state that “once they identify a low flying (under 1000 feet) UAS, they have between 10-15 minutes before their position will be hit with accurate artillery fire.” Fortunately, Russian UAS lack the surgical drone strike capabilities as seen in the American varieties. The Russians have no such weaponized UAS at this point that is comparable to a Predator.
Russia should not be underestimated in this conflict. So far they have proved to be a formidable opponent and have displayed “from world-class cyber and electronic warfare capabilities to sophisticated covert action and disinformation operations.” Other than the conventional forces previously mentioned, they have also used “propaganda, sabotage, assassination, bribery, proxy fronts, and false-flag operations” to battle with Ukraine. In addition to the several thousand Russian commanders, intelligence advisors, and officers, the separatist force in the Donbas is made up of approximately 30-40,000 troops.
Given the clear superiority in conventional forces from NATO and the U.S., Russia has turned to a more unconventional approach. This can be seen in the mastery Russia shows in their use of information warfare. Intelligence services learn how to tailor messages and propaganda for each specific group they are targeting. Disinformation campaigns have destabilized the Ukrainian’s foundation on what information to trust or not. Cyber-attacks are growing more common and can range from hacking “Ukrainian networks to steal information for intelligence or propaganda purposes to crippling denial of service attacks on critical infrastructure.” Cyber-attacks have only escalated since the beginning of the conflict, and most likely will continue on this trajectory. Covert and clandestine operations have also been used against Ukraine with a definitive level of mastery. Initially in the invasion of Crimea in 2014, the semi-covert operations can be noted by the presence of ‘little green men,’ special forces operators whose uniforms lacked identifying insignias although they proved to be Russian agents. Then again in the Donbas, ‘little green men’ have operated, organized, and led seizures and demonstrations with no identifying markings. Russian conventional and unconventional capabilities can inform the U.S. on how best to operate against the Russians by analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.
Ukraine possesses the third largest military in Europe, which is in part due to the recent military expansion in response to Russian action in 2014. During that year, the total military force increased to around 204,000 soldiers, and approximately 45,000 civil servants as well. Ukrainian ground forces consist of around 169,000 people and include Armored and Mechanized Forces, Army Air Defense, Army Aviation, and Rocket and Artillery Troops. The Ukrainian Air Force is much smaller and only has around 36,000 members. The Navy is even smaller with 6,5000 people and the Special Forces unit is about 4,000 members. Ukraine does not necessarily need to have a particularly large force given the continued support and assistance from the United States and NATO.
Current Capabilities: U.S./NATO
The United States has the world’s largest military spending budget, and the most powerful military. Such a high budget allows for the United States to develop new technologies and weapons at a much more effective rate than Russia. While the speed of decision-making is slower, the overall level of capabilities is much higher. Putin may not fear NATO alone, although with the force of the U.S. behind, it is much more effective at deterrence. The personnel involved in OAR from USAREUR include General Staff officers from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, and the 173rd Brigade Combat Team. The U.S. military has sent air, land, and sea support to the efforts of Operation Atlantic Resolve. These capabilities are a significant benefit to the region and offer a good amount of deterrence for Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltics. Along with traditional military resources available, the United States military also has cyber capabilities and drones at their use. Currently in Poland, the U.S. has a rotational military presence of 4,5000 people. Some of these forces include an “Army division-level Mission Command Element (MCE)” in Poznan, elements of a “rotational Army Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) and support units,” an Army Aviation Task Force, as well as “approximately 750-person Army Logistics Task Force,” a USAF Detachment in Lask, Poland, and U.S. Navy Detachment in Redzikowo. Similar levels of consensual occupation are occurring in the Baltics and in Yavoriv, Ukraine.
Currently, the U.S. forces are operating in ‘heel-to-toe’ rotating ABCTs with deployments in periods of nine months. These rotational deployments demonstrate the Army’s ability to meet both mission requirements and the demands of SRM, the sustainable readiness model. This allows troops to operate “at a consistently higher level of combat proficiency and overall readiness.” The SRM model helps to sustain more that 66% of aggregate Army units as combat ready in any given moment, and allows for greater strategic flexibility, yet the system is flawed. The constant rotation of personnel “undermines interoperability efforts as deployed U.S. battalions seldom remain in one location long enough to make any real progress.” This can lead our allies to view us as transients and units must start over from scratch with each new group, which is wasteful of time and intelligence.
Recommended Intelligence Capabilities
The U.S. should keep drones at the ready in case of any Russian escalation. Given that the Russians lack drones with strike capabilities, the U.S. should use this to their advantage and render Russian resources and military capabilities useless. The United States intelligence community is very large and is a useful tool to use in times of conflict. The U.S. should be relying on all available forms of intelligence at this time. Human Intelligence (HUMINT) sources are an absolute necessity and could be instrumental in informing on Russia’s next targets, goals, operations, or capabilities. Developing sources from within Russia, or from the separatists in the Donbas is a reliable, direct, and effective method to discover operational plans and intentions from within the opposition.
Drones should be used to covertly fly over the Donbas and Russian territories to collect SIGINT. This could be especially useful given the ever-growing reliance on technology and the internet to operate. SIGINT could capture intelligence regarding planned misinformation campaigns in Ukraine, any useful data on weapons systems and radar usage. Communications Intelligence (COMINT) could also be captured this way, which would assist the U.S. in planning operations or counterattacks in the future. Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) is also an essential capability that should be used. Given the difference in topography and mountain areas surrounding Donetsk and Luhansk, satellites should be used to capture imagery of the land and note possible roads or paths that the Russians could take if an invasion takes place. Given the importance of terrain, this collection is necessary and should not be left out.
Satellite imagery is also useful for tracking troop and heavy equipment movements around the region. Multispectral imaging should also be employed and can help determine what the different elements were picked up by satellite imagery. Resources should be dedicated to analyzing the news that comes from Russia’s disinformation campaign. Often, there is truth to be found in a publication meant to deceive. Analysis should occur to determine what was true and what was not from these misinformation campaigns, why was a specific lie used over another, what could be gained from this confusion, and what could the specific piece of disinformation tell decision-makers about the intention and goals of the Russians. A fusion approach should be taken when looking at all the available intelligence so holistic decisions can be reached.
In terms of what intelligence capabilities are missing, perhaps the U.S. military should use similar tactics against the Russians and take a more aggressive approach. The U.S. should use their own very capable cyber abilities to start an aggressive anti-Russian counter-disinformation propaganda plan. The misinformation has successfully worked against the Ukrainians, so hypothetically the same should work to at least slow down the Russians. Hacking could also be attempted to get information directly from the phones and computers of Russian operatives. Russia may be taking the lead in electronic warfare, but the U.S. should seek to catch up to their levels. Any success in this area could confuse or otherwise sidetrack the Russians and hopefully leave an opening for weakness to be exploited.
Given that the objective of Operation Atlantic Resolve is to bolster and offer deterrence, the U.S. cannot strike first as this would escalate tensions. However, in the event that escalation does happen, and the U.S. is required to intervene, there should be a plan for the best possible time to act. This could be determined by analyzing Russian conscription cycles and planning to act when force numbers are at their lowest, or a large percentage of new troops are still in training. Russia has also proven capable of effective targeting acquisition through their use of imaging drones and sensors. The U.S. should combat this by bolstering their own targeting systems to render the Russian drones inoperable and create new technology to block the targeting sensors.
Most of the specific intelligence questions needed to successfully deter Russian aggression in Ukraine and Eastern Europe relate back to the intentions of Putin. Information is needed on how likely he is to instigate a full-scale attack. Along with the probability of an attack happening, other basic but crucial information would be needed, such as when, where, how much force will be used, and from which direction an attack will take place. If answers to these questions can be accurately predicted, then the United States has a much higher chance for success by having time to mitigate the threats in advance. Another crucial question would be to find the least expected course of action the Russians could take and develop a contingency plan for that. The most dangerous military attack is one that was not expected, so the U.S. military should prepare for all possible outcomes. Additionally, another question arises that the entire operation is based on: How likely is Putin to escalate conflict with NATO and the United States presence in the area? If Russia is deterred, then what are the next steps for NATO? How long must they remain active in the region to protect Ukraine? If Putin will not be deterred, then what will be the American course of action? Will we join a war for Ukraine? This could lead to additional requirements for bases closer to the conflict zone, as U.S. troops in Lviv would not be able to reach the Donbas region in time.
Only time or very excellent intelligence collection can answer these questions. Any further action should be based on All Source Intelligence reporting since accurate intel is the difference between mission failure and mission success. Intelligence is a necessary tool to good decision-making and should inform future military action. Whatever the answers may be, the United States should be ready to react appropriately to whatever comes next and continue to bolster Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltics against Russian aggression.