US military commanders planning defense contingencies in the event of a war with Russia are running into an unlikely enemy that could stop them in their tracks: traffic jams.
US troops and their NATO allies might be in trouble when it comes to reinforcing Lithuania via Poland, thanks to the limited number of roads that span the 40-mile wide gap that separates Russia from its ally, Belarus. The only two main highways that go from Poland to Lithuania that could even be used in the region are rather narrow, with one unable to withstand being driven over by heavy equipment.
Even when utilizing rails, bureaucracy and individual government regulations throughout Europe can turn transporting heavy equipment and supplies by train into a nightmare that takes months to complete.
The vulnerability of Latvia in NATO’s overall defense plan -combined with the general lack of interest in defense preparations by many of America’s European NATO partners- has created a worrying scenario: As of 2016, a study by the Rand Corp. concluded that Russia could seize the Latvian capital of Riga in 60 hours or less, long before NATO reinforcements could back up shock troops that were in-country or able to be dropped into the region.
“We cannot change the geography,” Lithuanian-based NATO logistics team commander Lieutenant Colonel Mindaugas Petkevicius told The Washington Post. “It’s a natural choke point.”
No one understands this better than Lithuania, whose military is on a constant state of high-alert, troops packed and ready to deal with the might of the Russian coalition if the day ever arises- though how long they will be able to resist is another question entirely.
“The Baltics could be the place where Russia tests all of NATO,” said Lithuanian Defense Ministry, Lieutenant Colonel Valdas Dambrauskas. “If it fails, all of NATO fails.”
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