Defender 2020

This year, the sabre-rattling against Russia from the end of January to May will be accompanied by the largest US maneuver in about a quarter of a century, to which, to top it all, various NATO maneuvers will also be attached. In this country, “Defender 2020” will take place mainly in the months of April and May, with Germany playing a central role not only in the NATO maneuvers, but above all in the logistical support of US troops.

In the meantime, the Bundeswehr has set up its own website for the maneuver, on which it draws the following picture to support its important role, among other things, but rather gloomy from a peace-political point of view: “transport columns at night on German motorways, long freight trains that roll through German stations to the East, tanks on barges in the Ruhr area: when the Americans practice the procedures for transferring extensive forces from the USA to Eastern Europe next year with Defender Europe 20, due to its geo-strategic location in the heart of Europe, Germany is becoming a logistical hub.”

Because NATO’s war plans for Russia are based on the ability to quickly transfer large troop contingents to Eastern Europe, Defender is expected to make substantial “progress” in this area in 2020. Otherwise, more and more Details about the planned large-scale maneuver are gradually seeping through and the peace movement is also preparing for the event so that Defender 2020 will not go undisturbed.

Scenario: Russia – Russia – Russia

With frightening single-mindedness, the NATO, the USA and Germany prepare for the “return of the competition of great powers” by aligning strategy and structure of your troops on a “successful” victory over Russia (and China). This applies to Germany, for example, with the conception and capability profile of the Bundeswehr, both of which claim the establishment of large-scale associations against Russia as their objective.

But the US, too, has already taken the path towards great power competition with its National Security Strategy published at the end of 2017: “China and Russia are challenging American power, influence and interests and are trying to undermine America’s security and prosperity. […] Our task is to ensure that the military superiority of the US continues. […] We will maintain peace through strength by re-establishing our military so that it remains dominant, deters our enemies and, if necessary, is able to fight and win.”

This was followed up by the National Defence Strategy published the following year and the National Military Strategy, which in turn was incorporated into the budget priorities 2020. The defence strategy states, for example: “the long-term engagement with China and Russia is the most important priority for the Ministry of defence, which requires both higher and more sustainable investment.”

It is this context in which Defender 2020 can be seen when it says in The Associated Factsheet of the US Army: “In the future, the US military must be able to move and fight against a nearly equal opponent in order to win clearly in a multi-level high-intensity conflict. Defender Europe 20 builds on strategic speed and operationalised the objectives of the National defense strategy of the NATO deterrent by the ability of the U.S. military is demonstrated to relocate quickly for a large combat-capable force, along with allies and partners to respond quickly to a crisis.”

US Brigadier General Sean Bernabe, who is quoted as saying about the scenario of Defender 2020: “it contains a fictitious almost equal competitor and locates this competitor on European soil. […] The scenario is embedded in a Post-article-V-environment […] and placed on the year 2028.”

Officially, though, the semblance is maintained by emphasizing that the maneuver is directed against no particular state. For example, in mid-January 2020, the US General in charge, Andrew Rohling, declared that the exercise was “not at all directed against a specific threat.” However, it is of course quite obvious that this is not the case. And usually there is hardly any hiding from it, if it says in a Tagesschau commentary: “the old principle applies:' if you want peace, prepare for war.'[…] The large-scale maneuver “Defender 2020” is right and necessary. Also because it sends a clear Signal to Russia: in the event of an emergency, NATO would be ready. […] The Western military Alliance NATO is clear: Appeasement, so appeasement does nothing. It is seen in the Kremlin as a sign of weakness.”

Calculus: Tempo-Tempo-Tempo

In 2016, a game plan of the RAND Corporation came to the conclusion that Russia was able to conquer the Baltic States within a short period of time. As far as possible, the question of why Moscow should allow itself to be drawn into this was avoided, but the RAND results served as justification for the deployment of the “Enhanced Forward Presence”-that is, of four NATO battalions of 1,000 soldiers each in the Baltic states and Poland – decided in the same year.

In the ideas of the Western military, these troops are not meant to be a seriously attacking Russian army defeat. In an emergency, however, they should be able to hold them off until reinforcements are on site – for this reason, decisive importance is attached to the installation speed. The first wave of reinforcements is planned to be the 5,000-strong ultra-fast NATO intervention force (VJTF), which was already decided in 2014. As can be seen from very concrete plans of the army command in the paper “how the land forces will fight in the future”, the VJTF should bring one thing above all, time: “the NATO VJTF Brigade […] reinforced and delayed against attack by superior mechanized forces to give the Follow-on Forces time to deploy and establish operational readiness.”

As the time horizon for VJTF-installation German armed forces specifies: “as a NATO spearhead known Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is part of the NATO Response Force. […] The requirement: to be ready for action within 48 to 72 hours at any location where the force is needed.“From day five, the deployment of the remaining NATO Response Force, comprising a total of 40,000 soldiers, is to begin. And from day 30 after the decision, the additional troops of those decided in July 2018 and since 1. The NATO Readiness Initiative, which was activated on 1 January 2020, can be present with 30,000 more soldiers in the crisis area. So, Summa summarum, NATO’s plans are based on the fact that it is absolutely necessary to be able to transfer a military disengagement of about 70,000 soldiers to the eastern border within 30 days in order to be able to stop and repel a Russian attack and therefore to deter it from the outset.

Despite the highly questionable basic assumptions of this scenario, it still determines all NATO planning with regard to Eastern Europe. However, because in recent years significant doubts have repeatedly arisen that the intended speed can also be achieved, Defender 2020 is intended to remedy this situation.

Defender 2020: Cost Routes-Resting Places

Some Details about Defender 2020 have been known for some time: for example, that a US Division (20,000 soldiers) will be deployed from the US to the border of Russia as part of the exercise. As early as the end of January 2020, the first US ships are scheduled to land in Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany, with most activities in Germany focusing on the months of April and may.

A total of 37,000 soldiers are assumed to be involved, with another 7,000 US National Guardsmen to be added, which probably should not be included in these figures. In any case, with 33,000 pieces of Material in the luggage, approximately 4,000 kilometers will be maneuvered across Europe. New a first cost estimate of the military middle website breaking defense posed, citing U.S. Official of 340 million dollars-this, however, refers solely to the U.S. share.

After all, Defender 2020 is first and foremost a purely US maneuver, which is why the (previously unknown) costs for the attached “NATO maneuvers” should be added here: Astral Knight; Allied Spirit XI; Dynamic Front; Joint Warfighting Assessment; Saber Strike; Swift Response; Trojan Footprint. After the US Army states that in addition to the troops coming from the US, 9,000 US soldiers stationed in Europe are involved, it follows that other allies contribute the remaining 8,000 military personnel via these supplementary maneuvers (provided the plausible assumption is true that the National Guardsmen are not actually included in the overall figures). The responsible Bundeswehr General Martin Schelleis could not or did not want to provide information on the costs of the German share in Defender 2020 on 14 January 2020.

New are also more detailed information about the routes leading through Germany, which are mentioned in a letter sent to the members of the defence committee from the Ministry of defence on 13 January 2020. Ports where equipment and/or soldiers will land include Bremerhaven, Bremen, Duisburg, Krefeld and Mannheim. The airports will be Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremberg and Ramstein.

Of particular interest are the planned road routes – in its letter of 13 January 2020, the Ministry of defence now calls them “main routes “(somewhat different from previous information)” from Venlo and Aachen via Dortmund – Hannover – Berlin – Frankfurt/O - Bremerhaven – Hamburg – Berlin – Stettin”. In addition, the track “Mannheim – Hannover and Mannheim – Nuremberg – Dresden – Görlitz”.

Sleeping is in the “rest areas” Rheindalen, Augustdorf, Burg Lehnin, Oberlausitz, Garlstedt, Stadtallendorf and Frankenberg, while “Convoy Support Center” in Garlstedt, Burg and Oberlausitz as well as a tank plant in Bergen to be built in the course of the maneuver should offer logistics support.

The plan is to be driven primarily at night, although – presumably because the Bundeswehr is also expecting protests – the plans are subject to change: “changes may occur – in the short term,” says the letter from the Ministry of Defence.

Germany: Country Of Transit – Troop Logistics

In connection with Defender 2020, it has already been pointed out several times that the “conception of the Bundeswehr” of July 2018 already attempted to serve as a “possible Basis for Operations, Rear Area of operations and hub of support”. The Joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC), which was decided in 2018 and is based in Ulm, is to play an important role in all NATO plans for the rapid transfer of Material and troops to Russia. Therefore, according to information from the German government, the still crude JSEC will also play a role in Defender 2020: “NATO’s joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC), which is under construction in Ulm, will also be integrated by the exercise Combined Defender (CODE).”

On the specific role of JSEC as a kind of general logistics provider at Defender 2020, the January issue of “European security and technology” States: “JSEC is a kind of NATO military base. It determines the exact marches through the nations, regulates the border crossings and ensures realistic planning. […] It determines on the basis of the information provided by the US Armed Forces when they cross which border and where. The national forces, in Germany, the armed forces base, then organize the support in the respective country.”

With regard to the total number of German soldiers involved, it was stated in the Taz on 14 January 2020: “4,000 Bundeswehr soldiers will either support the Transport as part of the so-called ‘Host Nation Support’ or take part in individual partial exercises themselves. “That would mean 2,250 Bundeswehr soldiers participating in the NATO parts of Defender 2020. Because in a promotional video on the relatively newly established Bundeswehr website to Defender 2020 you will find concrete information about the soldiers involved in the Armed Forces Base: “1,750 soldiers from the Hunter and tank pioneer to the medic to the field fighter.”

As described above, these forces are primarily responsible for the so-called “Host Nation Support” and thus the support of US troops within Germany, thus also with Defender 2020. The HNS-core tasks describes the Bundeswehr as follows: “Host Nation Support, the support of foreign armed forces in Germany. This includes, for example, the planning and approval of thoroughfares over German roads or waters to the provision of accommodation or refuelling facilities at our locations. If support is required, the Federal Ministry of Defence hereby commissions the Armed Forces Base. The command Territorial tasks of the Bundeswehr takes over the task and coordinated with the property, territory, Host Nation Support, the services asked about, the country commands.”

Consequently, the Bundeswehr cites the following benefits that it would like to bestow on US troops as part of its maneuver: “security and escort”, “route planning”, “refueling”, “accommodation”, “catering” and “it Connection”.

An important “progress” to be made with Defender 2020 is a kind of general certification of military heavy transports, which should go beyond the maneuver itself. At the end of November 2019, German and US logistics experts met to get their heads together: “this is why specialists from four logistics associations and the logistics School of the Armed Forces Base recently met with their US comrades in Mannheim. At Coleman Barracks, various combat vehicles were available for certification. Because every tank transport on German roads is a heavy – duty transport, which requires an Escort Command and a marching credit – so to speak, the official approval. So does an M1 Abrams or the American Bradley tank fit on the German heavy transport Mammut and Elefant? […] Together, the Bi-National professionals packed up and presented their vehicles to the Examination Board. The result: German logistics associations can and may now also transport American combat vehicles on German roads. An important insight and progress not only for Defender 20. Because the created certificates remain about the Exercise of their validity. This greatly facilitates future cooperation in the field of logistics.”


In 2019, NATO military spending of $ 1.04 billion blew the “magic” mark of $ 1,000 million for the first time. For 2020, Germany alone will report military spending of around 55 billion dollars (50 billion euros) to NATO for the first time – almost as much as the roughly 60 billion dollars to which the Swedish Peace Research Institute Sipri estimates the Russian military budget. Just because of this discrepancy, the basic assumption underlying all this saber-rattling, namely that Russia would not only be able, but also willing, to invade a NATO country, is questionable to say the least. Even the former Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, Harald Kujat, sharply criticized such assumptions: “completely absurd […] one-sided, incomplete and unable to withstand a rational review. […] Putin knows that this would result in complete international Isolation – with obvious political and economic consequences for the country.”

For this reason alone, not only the military, but also the peace movement is preparing for Defender 2020 – an action consultation will take place in Hamburg on 18 January, and in Leipzig on 26 January 2020. Already at the end of November, about 100 people had gathered in Leipzig for a First Action Conference, whose final declaration stated: “the maneuver is an environmental disaster, an insane waste of resources and a destruction of diverse nature. It is an active contribution of the military to the impending climate catastrophe. The reasons for its rejection are manifold: political, military, geostrategic, ethical, moral, historical, climate and environmental, transport and infrastructure technical as well as current. This comprehensive rejection should be developed into a coalition of diversity, diverse actors and diverse actions as well as international cooperation.”