The – still developing – Harry Lembourn story

I first became aware of the existence of the Lembourn story late 2014 when I copied a multi-volume scrap-book with clippings from Danish newspapers and mainly from Nationaltidende.

From “Nationaltidende”s coverage of the Lembourn case and his contacts with the French assistant military attaché Captain Sorne. This photo in the paper on 11 January 1929 shows Danish and French officers enjoying an informal lunch somewhere in Denmark. Could be in Tondern Garrison. Harry Lembourn marked by cross.

Thereafter I started a full scale research into the case. After having read the massive Danish War Office personnel case file on Captain Lembourn, the biased Danish Foreign Office and Danish Berlin Legation case files as well as the contemporary press coverage in both other Danish and German newspapers I became ever more aware that the decisions of Danish authorities were neither straightforward nor fair. And I was left in no doubt about the pain the events and Danish reactions caused the family. What really made me keenly aware of the family’s both pain and loyalty was Thordis Lembourn’s search in vain for fairness and justice in a mid-1930s letter to the Danish Prime Minister Stauning.

Thordis’ letter to the Danish Prime Minister Stauning from 24 April 1934. (From the Danish War Office case file in the State Archives)

The files highlighted the degree of miscarriage of justice inflicted on Lembourn by panicky Danish authorities eager to appease the rearming Germany in a sacrifice of not only this awkward “spy”, but also the destructive effects on the ad hoc defence of the returned province of South Jutland that Captain Lembourn had been so active in supporting.

Marked with red the planned border posts south of Tondern from the Danish nationalist volunteer militia “Jydske Vaern” that Lembourn had volunteered training. (Map from Aage Westenholz archive in the Danish State Archives).

Background of events and what I now know or must conclude happened:

(I have to emphasise that most of the book I write, will describe the development and workings of the Danish Armed Forces activities as not formal, but de facto ally of Britain and especially France in the 1920s. The narrative will have a special emphasis on the creation of the South Jutland defence plan and forces and for naval co-operation in the Baltic Sea)

Harry Lembourn, here as First Lieutenant. (Photo: The Danish State Archives)

The general background and framework of Lembourn’s case was the following: Within six weeks after the end of fighting on 11 November 1918, Copenhagen had become the main base for Entente forces’ (mainly Royal Navy) intervention in the present Baltic States to push the Germans out and help defending against the Reds.

By 1920 this objective had been achieved, and even if Copenhagen Harbour remained important for the Western Powers, it was now mainly related to French support to Poland in its war against Soviet Russia. By spring-summer 1920 the Allied guaranteed plebiscites in North Schleswig led to the return of South Jutland to Denmark, and the new Liberal Government from May was especially grateful towards France for her clear, but ineffective, support for Denmark keeping control of the city of Flensburg.

The new Danish Defence Laws of 1922 with deep budget reductions became built on the premise and strategy of a de facto alliance framework based on the collective security obligations of the League of Nations. The potential enemies of the tacit alliance were the non-League-members Germany and Soviet Russia, and all defence planning and exercises the next years were based on direct Danish military and naval cooperation with Britain and especially France.

The fluent French speaker Harry Lembourn benefited directly by spending the next couple of years on detachment to the French Army giving him both service with an infantry regiment and time at the French Military Academy.

During his time as young officer before and during the war, Lembourn had remained a batchelor, probably using his merchant father and mother’s appartment from 1913 at Østerbrogade 82 (400 meters from where I write this) as a base. However, before leaving for France, Lembourn had served as Military Attaché from October 1920 to April 1921 at the Danish Legation of Christiania (now Oslo), where he must have met his future wife, the then teenager Thordis.

Thordis during a holiday, most likely in France, with her dress indicating at date no later than early 1920s. (Photo: The Grace and Stuart Fry family collection)

During his two years on exchange training in France, Lembourn served the first year from November 1921 with the 158th Infantry Regiment in Strassbourg. He was then authorised to follow the last 8 months of the second year of the course of L’École spéciale militarie de St Cyr, the famous French Military Academy, followed by September and October 1923 with a tank regiment before returning to Denmark.

After his return to Denmark Lembourn joined 2nd Infantry Battalion on 1 April 1924 in the new Danish Army Garrison in the South-Western Jutland town of Tondern (Tønder). On 18 August he married Thordis.

With its large German population group, the town was very much on the frontline between Danish and German. In the struggle against German influence, Lembourn became active on two fronts. Firstly he became the leading promoter of French language and culture as head of the local Alliance Française, and secondly he offered his service as weapons instructor for the new volunteer defence organisation “Jydske Værn” (the Jutland Guard). The latter was natural to him as he had previously worked in Copenhagen instructing the likewise volunteer “Kongens Livjægerkorps” (The Royal Life Rifle Corps). The Chairman of the Board of sponsors, etc., to the volunteer corps was the veteran leader of the Danish county and city community, Bank Director R.P. Rossen.

Denmark had no standing army, only a training-mobilisation force, and the fact that nationalist militias just south of the border openly prepared to retake most or all of North Schleswig made it self-evident to both the War Office and the local Danish leaders that something had to be done to make certain that a German local militia coup would meet some Danish resistance. One pool of locally available trained manpower was Danes that had served in the Prussian Army during the Great War. To employ these veterans the War Office authorised the establishment of a “Sønderjysk Landstorm” (South Jutland Militia) on the basis on mobilised veterans of whom 60-70 % were considered pro-Danish. The only other potential defence force was the small volunteer corps that Lembourn helped training.

The volunteer instructor for Tondern County of the volunteer Frontier Guard, Captain Lembourn, standing to the right of the firing range flag as always impeccably dressed, here in the new British style khaki uniform. The other officer is his battalion and garrison commander, Lieutenant Colonel Obel in the old French style grey uniform. Obel tried to defend Lembourn by giving (accurate) evidence on Lembourns personality, but soon had to stop trying as being vulnerable himself to accusations.

The driving force of the “Guard” that Lembourn instructed in weekends was the far right-wing political activist, Captain Max Arildskov, who had served in the Danish volunteer company in the Baltic Wars of Independence in 1919, but the formal leader of the volunteer guard project was the strong personality, Bank Director R.P. Rossen.

Events in 1928
Lembourn’s attitude profile matched that of a normal Danish regular officer of the period: uncritically National Conservative, anti-German, anti-Socialist, but otherwise with no interest in political issues. This profile is not only clear from all Danish sources, it was repeated by Ernst Friedrich, Lembourn’s intellectual prison friend in Gollnow Fortress in 1930-31. When reading the Lembourn correspondence, it is it his honorable trustfulness that stands out, including during his fact-finding visit to Berlin in late spring 1928. I have now come to the firm conclusion that Harry Lembourn spoke and wrote the truth, because he was incapable of doing otherwise.

According to Lembourn it was Rossen that pressed him to make a short visit to Berlin seek information about German nationalist militias such as the large “Stahlhelm” that openly challenged Danish control of “North Schleswig”. This information was confirmed by the German press after Lembourn’s arrest when it wrote that “Jydske Værn” had been noted to seek information from Germany for some time.

Lembourn saw Rossen as the local leading agent (“tillidsmand”) of the Tondern part of the Danish General Staff intelligence network, which was probably still the case even if the Bank Director was now also working for the French. However, what is clear is that even if Lembourn later recognized that his report ended up with French Intelligence via the Military Attaché, Capitaine Sorne (which he seems to have seen as natural), he thought that Rossen had sent him to Berlin to organize fact-finding for Denmark about the threat from the large German paramilitary militias, and especially the very large Stahlhelm organisation.

The local leader of the Danish General Staff Intelligence and French Intelligence representative in Tondern, the veteran Danish community leader Bank Director Rasmus Peter Rossen, who convinced Lembourn to make the fact finding and recruiting visit i April 1928. (Photo probably from around 1920: Dansk Centralbibliotek for Sydslesvig, Flensborg)

Rossen probably deliberately gave Lembourn the false impression that he would be working only or mainly for Denmark. At the same time Rossen deliberately blocked Lembourn’s idea to contact the Danish Intelligence head, Captain Hother Styrmer, himself as that would make clear that Danish Intelligence had not officially authorised the trip.

Lembourn’s fateful two weeks visit to Berlin from late April 1928 to mid-May was conducted in the direct and unsophisticated amateurish way that mirrored both his personality and the extremely short time available. In a local cinema Lembourn (pretending to be the Englishman Mr. Brown) met the typist Ms Stegelmann. After the cinema followed a drink in a beer-restaurant, and Lembourn convinced her that she should seek information about the German armed forces. She was given a list of questions and funds cabled by Rossen.The sum (500 DKK) paid her and any assistants and covered expenses for buying a camera and a type-writer. The sum equals 2,000-2,500 UK£ today. Rossen might have got the money from the French.

The typist hired an assistant (Mr. Ried) to get the information for the list of questions. He did so by openly entering the Reichministerium (The National Defence Ministry in Berlin) to seek answers to the questions. The ministry security authorities got suspicious, gave false information, followed it back to Ms. Stegelmann and identified Mr. Brown as Harry Lembourn.

Lembourn noticed later that these German militias that he saw as his main task were not only seen as a menace to South Denmark; the new German Defence Minister considered them a threat to the German State. The open way all happened supports Lembourns constant later statements that he did not see his action as more than legitimate “fact-finding”. It surprised him that it was considered to be espionage.

The report developed for Rossen was passed-on, and Lembourn had second hand information (but no confirmation) that it had been read by the head of Danish General Staff Intelligence before it ended-up with Capitaine Sorne. He was a logical recipient. By 1928 it was clear to all, including the French Intelligence, that Germany had become active in breaking the arms control limitations of the Versailles Peace Treaty after the formal control organization had been disbanded after Germany became a League of Nation Member.

When Lembourn arrived back in Tondern mid-May from Berlin, the 70 years old Bank Director was ill, on 15 June he died, and on 20 June Harry and Thordis crossed the Border for a tourist trip to the North-Frisian Island of Sylt together with other officer families from the Tondern Garrison.

What Lembourn saw as legitimate and innocent find-finding for Denmark guided by list of questions that he must have been given by Rossen (from the French) could be seen as a clumsy attempt of recruiting foreign agents to seek sensitive information about Germany, and the visit could not have been made at a worse time. In January 1928 the so-called Lohmann scandal about a secret armament program led first of the replacement of the Reich Defence Minister Otto Gessler. On 30 September that year it was followed by the dismissal of the Reichmarine Chief, Admiral Hans Zenker. It was at a time when the Germans had not yet decided what to do with the arrested hapless amateur spy recruiter Lembourn.

During the investigation in mid-January 1929 of Lembourn’s claim that he had acted on behalf of the General Staff Intelligence Section that claim was rejected as incorrect as was the specific claim that the section operated a post-box together with the French Assistant Military Attaché in Copenhagen. The denial of knowledge of Lembourn’s mission was easy as it was standard and sound procedure that only the recruiting leading border zone agent (here the now deceased Rossen) was supposed to know the identity of the agent. For reasons of security (and probably also deniability when something went wrong as here) there was no reason why the General Staff should know the identities of agents not tasked and financed directly be its intelligence section.

Captain Hother Styrmer, the head of the General Staff Intelligence Section, who needed information for his ongoing comprehensive analysis of the threat from the German paramilitary militias. During the winter 1929 investigation of Lembourn’s allegations of working for Danish Intelligence neither he or his superiors found reason to explain how the service was organised and worked with decentralised responsibility for border zone operations.

Late January 2018 I have found convincing evidence in the surviving intelligence files of the Danish State Archives that Styrmer actually had knowledge of Rossen’s initiative, even if he may not have known Lembourn’s name before he was sent: On 17 May 1929 Styrmer completed a comprehensive analysis of the German militias with a focus on the Stahlhelm-organisation. It was the military intelligence section’s key analytic work of the year, and its text make clear that its main source foundation was information collected in spring 1918.

The front page of Styrmer’s intelligence report from May 1929 about the German para-military organisations and especially the “Stahlhelm”. Rossen’s fact-finding by Lembourn was most likely meant to supplement its basis. (Danish State Archives)

Thus Lembourn was probably correct when he never accepted that he only worked for France. But he did understand that his report was shared with the French, which he must have seen as natural considering both the security and defence policy since the war and his own service experience.

The Bank Director’s contact with French Military Intelligence might either have been direct – with Capitaine Sorne or his boss Colonel Burin de Roziers in Brussels – or via the Danish Captain Daniel Bruun. Bruun, a former Foreign Legionaire, seems to have been responsible for a French intelligence network in North Schleswig after the Great War, and Rossen had been on his contacts list as early as 1912. If this theory is right, the trusting Lembourn was sent to Berlin by Rossen with a French intelligence requirements list and with the incurred costs paid by French money via Rossen, but still believing that he worked directly for Denmark. If so, it would not be the last time an agent would be cheated into working for a different state than he believed. That theory would explain why the French paid Lembourn a lifelong pension.

The intervew with Capitaine Sorne in Berlingske Tidende,s on 11 January 1929. He had served as the local Copenhagen assistant of the French Military Attaché for more than two years. He underlined in the interview that his mouth was closed: he acted under orders, but he had nothing to hide, being only a small piece of the game.

Lembourn’s arrest was most probably the result of information from hostile German citizens of Tondern and not the German central counter-intelligence authorities based on his activities in Berlin. The arresting Flensburg policeman was known to be anti-Danish.

Nothing much happened during the first months after his arrest – probably because his efforts had been so amateurish – and there were rumours that he would be released, even if it was clear to the Germans that Lembourn had been tasked by France. Then, in late autumn, however, it became clear that the German authorities would use the case against Lembourn to emphasize it as part of the unacceptable Danish defence cooperation with Germany main great power enemy, France.

From the year before the events: Harry’s parents’ – Poul and Maria’s – Golden Wedding Anniversary on 2 October 1927 celebrated at Nyråd east of Vordingborg. The celebration took part in the house of his son-in-law, “Bryggerhuset”, on Nyråd Hovedgade 90 (Photo: From Christian Lembourn and his father’s collection).

Just prior to the court proceedings started, German intelligence received (formally incorrect) information that Denmark was close to joining the (in reality non-existing) French-Polish Military Alliance against Germany. Rumours of the de facto Danish-French intelligence co-operation seem to have been picked up or simply suspected by the Germans. The alleged key Danish contribution would be the full subordination of Danish Intelligence to the French. This false information was most likely what triggered a trial meant to send a clear warning to Denmark to drop any cooperation against Germany.

The warning is clearly received even before the start of the trial. The Danish Minister in Berlin, Herluf Zahle, begged the German authorities that it would be closed to the public not to harm Danish-German relations too much. Zahle had always been a strong believer in a complete and unquestioned proactive subordination of Denmark to German security interests.

Berlingske Tidende’s drawing from the court-room in Leipzig before the proceedings were closed to the public.

On receiving information about Lembourn’s sentence (and weeded information from the court proceedings) the Danish authorities started a witch-hunt in vain for any contacts that Lembourn might have had in the central authorities in Copenhagen. As Rossen had died, Lembourn’s role for him remained unknown.

1½ months after Lembourn received his sentence in Leipzig the parliamentary basis of the 1922 defence compromise collapsed. (Nationaltidende)

The inherently provocative act of basing a defence of South Jutland on anti-German motives was quickly addressed by first the dissolution of the planned mobilization and use of units of Danish minded veterans and soon followed by pressure to dissolve Max Arildskov’s “Jutland Guard”.

However, the most important signal of understanding of the German warning was the total destruction of the future of Lembourn to discourage others. However the “Generalauditør” Victor Pürschel (the chief legal advisor and official of the Defence Minister) made absolutely clear in 1929 and later that a 1888 Supreme Court ruling against the Government (the Finance Ministry) in a similar case blocked the legal option of removing Lembourn’s salary and later pension. Then the retired Danish Captain Christian Sarauw, who had had a key role developing French intelligence against Germany, had claimed his pension after returning to Denmark after serving two years of his twelve years penitentiary sentence. Both the Intermediate and Supreme Courts had ruled clearly in Sarauws favour that no foreign court ruling could be used as basis for the Danish administrative decision such as removing an officer’s pension.

A contemporary newspaper portrait of Victor Pürschel. At the time of Lembourn’s sentence, Pürschel had just lost the position of leader of the Conservative Party group in the Lower House of Parliament (Folketinget). Both he and his post-Second World War successor as the chief legal officer of the Defence Forces kept underlining that depriving Lembourn of his pension was illegal. (Photo: The Pürschel Papers, The Royal Library)

The legal approach closed, the Government used the 1929 supplementary state budget to remove Lembourn’s pension and thus proving to Germany that Denmark had got the message. The decision was justified by the claim that by working for French Intelligence Lembourn had violated the requirements of his employment contract.

Cartoon from 10-10-1928 with names added by Pürschel showing the leaders of the governing Liberal and Conservative Parties. It appeared at a time when the court case against Lembourn went through its final preparations. (Photo: The Pürschel Papers, The Royal Library)

Where the German Court prosecutor had accepted that Lembourn had acted from ideological motives, the Danish authorities rejected that notion and ruled that the money send by France to pay for expenses in Berlin was pay so that Lembourn acted out of greed and thus dishonourably.

During the next 25 years bureaucratic stonewalling succeeded in blocking repeated Lembourn family and legal supporters’ attempts to question the spring 1929 decision.

The family at the daughter’s wedding in 1948, the year when the French Minister in Copenhagen had to intervene to force the Danish authorities to offer Harry a paid position in the Defence Forces. (Photo: The Grace and Stuart Fry family collection)

No wonder that Harry, his wife and later generations of the family found and find it difficult to understand what happened then and later; namely:

1) How Lembourn could believe that he worked for the Danish General Staff Intelligence and the Danish Intelligence leader could claim without lying that it had no knowledge of any such affiliation. That would always be the situation as all border agents were recruited and controlled locally.
2) That Germany had given Denmark a clear warning by giving the hapless Lembourn an initially brutally hard prison sentence for his amateur attempt to set-up spying against violations of the Versailles Treaty that had already openly acknowledged and accepted of the German and international press.
3) That Denmark found it necessary to send the message that she had learnt by firing Harry Lembourn, removing his pension and continuing a campaign to destroy him, ignoring normal rules of law in a Kafka-like regime to uphold the effects during the following years. The officials even rejected to revisit the decision after the German defeat in 1945 (probably because the same civil servants were still in key positions).

Even in April 1946 the War Minister rejected Lembourn’s request to see the text of his 1929 sentence, because Denmark had promised Germany in 1929 not to do so. (Document from the Øhlenschlæger family collection)

The trusting Lembourn walked blindly into a mine-field that he still failed to see as such even after it had exploded in his face. He gave the Germans the chance to use him as an effective warning against Denmark and his own country an easy and way of proving that it surrendered. His captain’s norm and position as company commander in the Tondern Garrison was immediately occupied by the promotion of Erik Jonstad-Møller, who as Major-General was to become the first commander of the Danish volunteer Home Guard in 1948.

The anti-military, anarchist, German trouble-maker Ernst Friedrich would use much of his late 1931 book on his time in Gollnow Fortress Prison in Pomerania in a vain attempt to support his Danish military gentleman friend’s case. Here their last beer together. Lembourn as always dressed as elegantly as possible, and even the anarchist in suit.

The most important pieces I used to miss to tell the Harry Lembourn part of the book’s story in a proper way, were family photos from 1919 to Harry’s death, and especially a photo of Thordis from around 1930. The family deserved it after the miscarriage of fairness and justice that you – mainly Harry, Thordis and the two children – have suffered. The more I read and understood, the angrier I have become and the more eager I am to get the story out. The family has now responded, and the grandson Stuart Fry in Australia has sent me some key photos.

Thordis with the daughter Grace and son Phillip. The photo appears to have been taken in Norway, most likely in 1930. (Photo: The Grace and Stuart Fry family collection)

The Danish reaction to the Lembourn affair was the start of what ended on 9 April 1940. Zahle, the Danish Berlin Minister was still in the same position twelve years later.

The table in Lembourns Gollnow Fortress room on 17 April 1931 when he celebrated his 25 years Soldier’s Anniversary with Ernst Friedrich. On the table apparently portraits of Lembourn and Thordis with a photo of Grace and Phillip on the right-hand photo.

I hope to be able to publish the book early 2019 at the University Press of Southern Jutland in Odense that I normally work with. If the family accepts, the book shall be dedicated to it.

Michael H. Clemmesen

The story has developed thanks to the assistance of my young historian colleague Dr Kristian Bruhn, who made his growing understanding of the contemporary Danish Intelligence community available.

Siegfried Matlok, the respected veteran leader of the German minority community and former chief editor of “Der Nordschleswiger” found many additional contemporary articles dealing with the “Lembourn Case” in the local newspapers. He made it possible to create a consistent narrative of Lembourn’s actions during his “fact-finding” trip to Berlin late spring 1928.

Different members of the extended and direct family found and supplied copies of documents and photos. First Viggo and Niels Øhlenschlæger and then Christian Lembourn from Danish parts of the extended family. Via Niels Øhlenschlæger and his English relatives, I was contacted by Stuart Fry, Thordis and Harry Lembourn’s grandson, who lives outside Melbourne in Australia.

On ways to man an army… or what the Danish CHOD resists learning and Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen will always be too shallow to grasp

The comment is based on personal experience, observations and reading through more than half a century. The personal experience is from the Danish “Home Guard” and army from 1962 to 1994.

It will not address political-ideological issues such as whether conscription is a disgusting interference into the freedom of man, a good way to discipline and harden the youth or just natural “national service”.


I am not surprised that theoretical academics such as Professor Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, who periodically wears the “emperor’s new military expert’s garb“, rejects conscription as obsolete irrespective of personal and historical experience and context. I am only ashamed that my professional colleagues and the media let him get away with the arrogance, as the point of view is not and cannot be based on critical use of experience.

Likewise I am not surprised when I hear that the leader of the contract soldiers’ union lobby against conscription using superficial and partly faulty arguments. I am just unhappy if it means that Denmark will get a less balanced military than would otherwise be possible.

But I am both embarrassed and depressed when I hear from the politicians now involved in the negotiations about our Denmark’s future military defence that the Chief of Defence, General Bjørn Bisserup, reacts to any idea of a partial return to the pragmatic mixed manning system that includes some conscription based reserve elements with blind dogmatism and an inability to argue on the basis of mission context and experience.


In Norway, the use of conscripts has finally become truly “universal” as the future Swedish version.

Four paths to force manning will be discussed in the vain hope of enlightening our CHOD and others with influence.

Firstly manning by contract employment and the creation of any reserves through service contracts with ex-contract soldiers.

The option is often misnamed “professional”. Misnamed because the term imply a life or career long commitment to the knowledge, practice and ethics of a focused expert group.

Most private contract soldiers do not even commit themselves or stay long enough to learn a specialist soldier’s craft such as an all-round, expert tank soldier or infantry soldier capable of doing all jobs in an infantry section/squad. Either will take 3 to 4 years with varied practical peace-time activities or more than one half-year tour on the job in a demanding mission area.

Secondly manning by conscription to create reserve forces for mobilisation. However with intensive basic training beyond six months possibly also to create units with specialised combat readiness.

Thirdly manning by a mix of the conscription and contract employment, possibly both in the standing force and for the manning of reserve units.

Fourthly manning of reserves by civilian volunteers (named National Guard, Territorials and Home Guard to highlight the local main mission), motivated by a combination of nationalism and “hobbyism”, herafter named the “Volunteer Forces”.

Each option will be discussed to identify the strengths and problems, and the end of piece will outline the connections of the option to the situation of the state.

1. Contract soldiers
The option creates a pool of armed state employees with the costs depending on market conditions and the chosen requirements for general and special skills. It does form a good framework for selecting and developing NCOs. The gradually accumulated pool of competencies will give flexibility in use of individuals and small elements in both domestic security and various international missions; however my Danish experience is that unit culture is far too hampered by a “trade union” attitude to demanding service, military discipline and risks, to make the force effective. This is natural as the situation mirrors the civilian society around the soldiers where most soldiers live with their families. In other armies that are kept more separate from their society in military accommodation.

Danish Army contract soldiers

However even for a Danish unit deployed to a mission area there seems to exist the risk known from other contract manned armies of combat units being infected by political extremism and macho culture. No matter which army, this can only be countered by visible and direct leadership and a formal and enforced military discipline.

If the force is intensively and broadly exercised and employed, it will create a framework for the professional education, training and personal development of its officers. However, the presently often limited force size and thus very few leadership positions means that only a small fraction of the officer corps will benefit, and the remainder will soon relapse into being uniformed administrators, not updated in their profession.

In my experience and from my observations the main problems related to a small state contract soldier army are the following: Where the individual soldiers may have gained a significant routine through various service, the subunits only have a relatively low level of combat readiness. They need 4-6 weeks of intensive and focused preparatory training before any deployment.

The reasons are that

1) the rotation between positions is high (and filling of positions now hampered and delayed by centralised “HR” management),

2) the subunits (companies) are not kept fully manned due to absence for various reasons such as professional and civilian courses and lack of funds to maintain full manning and

3) due to the Danish working hours limited employment and missing funds for overtime payment, soldiers are absent for compensation leave.

Before any deployment the company will have to be developed from something resembling a partly structured ad hoc pool of soldiers to one with fully developed unit cohesion and teams or crews of cooperating soldiers fully trained in their functions.

A second damaging problem for a small state army of contract soldiers is that there will never be funds for a complete and fully deployable combat service support (logistic) organisation and rarely for a sufficient combat support (fire support and engineer) structure that will give a resilience in a mission and make the contract force capable of more than symbolic action.

Thus the small state contract manned army is actually a “Potemkin Village“, unfortunately with too many of its officers in denial of this fact due to loss of professional eyesight or moral courage.

2. The conscripts
The first advantage of the conscript-mobilisation army is the high production of units for a given sum of money.

Another advantage is the focused training sequence from general individual soldier development over small unit and individual soldier specialist training to the creation of cohesive functional units – for immediate employment or for the reserve.

That the training activity is directed at the production of subunits rather than individual soldiers means that if the unit is kept together in the reserve and receive regular refresher training under its war time cadre and if that cadre is constantly monitored and tested to weed out incompentents, the unit can be employed quickly and be combat ready right after mobilisation for the mission it has been trained for.

A third advantage is that conscription gives direct access to the civilian society and its specialists such as doctors, nurses, engineers, mechanics, and various craftsmen. That makes it feasible for even a small state to balance the army’s combat elements with a full and resilient logistic organisation that is linked directly to the similar civilian functions.

The access to the most capable civilian human resources also means that the regular officer corps can be reduced to the number necessary to command and administer the peace-time army as it can develop a robust reserve officer corps of capable and highly motivated civilians and add them and whatever competencies they have developed to the war time officer corps.

Finnish conscript military policemen during training

However, the drawbacks of the pure conscript system can be significant. Its continued acceptance by the voters/taxpayers depends on the conscripts being given a positive and meaningful impression of their basic training. The conscripts must be inspired by dynamic and highly competent NCO-instructors and officers, who end up being seen as role models. The equipment they are trained on must be updated and relevant, and the intensity of the training sequence must be balanced both to avoid the impression of wasting time or accelerating too quickly. Thus the demands on the officers and NCO-instructors are very high.

At the same time repeated work as instructors for a several conscript classes will undermine the development of cadre professionalism because they never get beyond the basic level where they learn themselves by being tested and learning the humility required for successful tactical leadership. This is especially the case in the present short up to 6 months basic conscription training that ends before any realistic subunit and higher exercises that can give and test the cadre’s ability to lead in the field.

Due to the short basic training, the quality of the conscript system depends on reserve unit refresher training. Then the conscripts are older and likely to be even more critical and intolerant of any leadership folly and waste of time. Unfortunately the extended and demanding field manoeuvres where the mature conscripts could exercise together with their cadre became very rare in the Danish Army after the mid-1960s.

These older conscripts are likely to be especially critical of any officer or NCO who ignores that they are now mature persons that cannot be treated and motivated as they were in basic training. This means that they will look for the professional leadership qualities that are likely to be lost in cadres mainly employed as basic training administrators and instructors, leaderships that asks for and employ what the conscripts have learnt from live and work.

A final potential problem for this manning option is that it may be considered politically unacceptable that general conscription also means giving military training and expertise to groups of young people of potentially limited loyalty to the state. One such special case was the British decision not to introduce conscription to Ireland in 1916. Others, such as Estonia, has deliberately used the conscript service to strengthen the ties to the state of citizens of other ethnic and language background.

3. The mix
The mix of a conscription and a contract employed serving and reserve personnel was used and developed in various forms in the Danish Army from the 1950s until 2004. It was developed pragmatically with changing demands and gained experience, with the zenit reached at the end for the Cold War with the period’s framework of intensive unit and formation exercises. The motives were to get most for the money and to increase unit combat readiness.

The first steps were taken when reduction of the conscript service period undermined a rational conscript manning of tank crews and other demanding functions with drafted personnel. Later contract soldiers were used as armoured personnel carrier drivers for otherwise conscript manned armoured infantry companies to enhance training efficiency by making the drivers available from the moment three months into the training where the armoured infantry training started.

The first contract service soldiers of the Danish Army manned the Centurion tank squadrons. Here one of these squadrons at the parade in 1991 marking mothballing of the remaining Centurions. I commanded the sister squadron in 1984-86. In the Centurion Tank squadron in Vordingborg 30 kms to the south, one of the troop leaders was the young first lieutenant Bjørn Bisserup.

To keep key reserve officers updated and available during reserve unit refresher training, they were given “standing” reserve contracts committing them to serving some weeks every year. From the late 1980s such reserve contracts were given to NCOs and privates with key roles in supporting unit commanders and their staff, such as the core command teams. In this way it became more realistic to maintain reserve element and unit combat readiness at the very high level required by the Alliance. It also made it possible for logistics and other support unit command cadre and staff to participate in co-operation exercises with the brigades, the Jutland Division and the two regional army corps.

The mixed manning system also made it possible to rotate officers and NCOs away from repetitive service such as instructor at conscript basic training. Thereby this pragmatically developed system reduced the limitations of the conscript system at a very limited cost.

4. Volunteer soldiers
This manning option does not really compete with the other possibilities during peace-time. Then it just supplements the other options by harnessing the various attitudes and interests of the citizens at a very low cost.

The voluntary part-time soldiers join with very different backgrounds and willingness to commit their time and resources. The majority cannot be expected to reach a training level beyond participation in simple rear area guard duties unless they have a background as former contract soldiers or the earlier full conscript service.

Danish Homeguard volunteers during the Cold War

At the other end of the spectrum the system may see volunteers committing themselves to seek and achieve the expertise and training levels of special operations forces or to seek relevant formal qualification (in the Danish Naval Home Guard e.g. as captain of a search and rescue vessel).

If regular mobilisation unit standards are applied in the fields of physical and age requirements, cadre education and quality, equipment norms as well as formal military discipline, volunteer manned units can be trained and prepared for high intensity conventional warfare. This took place with the British Territorial Army units and the U.S. Army National Guard in both world wars and British Territorial Army battalions were planned deployed to Germany for rear area tasks during the Cold War.

Soldiers from the 30 U.S. Infantry Division during the Second World War. It was formed from volunteer Army National Guard units and was judged to be the best American regular infantry formation involved in the fighting in Western Europe 1944-45.

However, converting the Homeguard/National Guard to a competent and disciplined combat force is extremely hard to achieve if the people or its volunteers either see the organisation as a modern version of “Dad’s Army” or a nationalist party militia.

If not selected, trained, officered and disciplined for a regular conventional combat role, the volunteer force can only be employed in rear area guard and police support duties as Dad’s Army

Through the volunteer manning option, the forces can get access to civilian expertise otherwise only reachable through conscription. One problem with the option is that the organisation has to be even more alert to the risk of the development of clusters of political extremist and macho culture than is the case in the easier disciplined regular contract manned units.

The national situation and the choice
With Finland’s 1918-45 history, long border with Russia and large geographical area well suited for light forces fighting with strong artillery support and operating under the constrains of the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, her choice of manning option was obvious: Full use of the maximum peace-time strength to create the largest possible post-mobilisation army supplemented by the paramilitary border guard under the Interior Ministry.

The Finnish Army combat doctrine was built on massive use of artillery fires in support of the infantry. Old pieces had to remain in service with the reserve units to achieve this. Here a 150 mm howitzer from 1940 during a 1987 exercise in Lapland.

That meant a short training-focused conscription period and combat readiness plus deterrence built on the ability to mobilise quickly combined with the Finnish reputation for fighting well in spite of odds.

As logical as the Finnish choice was both the British return to conscription as “National Service” in 1939 that mirrored the expectations of another continental war and the learning from 1916 to 1920 and the return to a contract soldiers army in 1920 and again in 1960 as the main mission in 1920 returned to stabilisation of the Empire and in 1960, when the step could be justified by the expected decisive role of nuclear weapons.

Denmark’s post-Second World War way was as logical. As the equipment was donated by allies and the NATO emphasis was on the largest possible forces in high readiness, the choice soon became an army created through 16 months conscription service with the last 12 months in readiness. As conscript unhappiness with the long boring months of readiness forces grew, and as money had to be found to replace the donated equipment, the army was reduced and ended with the mixed system described above and with the mission to stop the first Warsaw Treaty Organisation attack wave giving time and space for the arrival of reinforcements and crisis management to stop the war before nuclear holocaust happened.

The British 1920 logic can be seen as mirrored by the decisions of Europeans after 2001, when the history not only had ended dramatically on 9-11, but the threat had been replaced by something not easily countered by territorial defence forces.

However, as the U.S. Army knows from its overseas commitments: Every time a conventional war becomes extended, some type of conscription must be introduced to sustain the engaged forces. It the situation in Korea spins out of control and fighting starts, this will be clear again.

Land Force Re-booting Guide for Dummies

If not learned: Effects of a Russian artillery strike in the Donbas

The military profession is a practical one, and it can only be learned by practising under ever more adverse and thus demanding conditions. By not being exercised seriously for more than twenty years, it has been unlearned in nearly all West-European armies.

This small guide presents the only peace-time path to the rebuilding land-force professionalism. It must start from scratch, shedding the irrelevant procedures and structures like a computer no longer able to function and therefore re-booted.

First phase: Relearning operational war planning
To create a usable framework, the frontline states (the Baltic States, Poland and possibly Finland for the Swedish Army) must identify a handful of very different relevant defence sectors/missions relevant for brigade group size forces (“group” meaning reinforced for independent operations).

They should be high threat areas such as the Narva area, the Lithuanian coastal area bordering Kaliningrad Oblast, and the border zone in Estonia and Latvia along the highway from Pskov to Riga. Depending on terrain, the width of a brigade defence sector would be 10-20 kilometres.

Other relevant missions could be in likely “economy of force” zones such as the north-eastern Lithuania and near the Latvian south-eastern border with Belarus, where the observation and security mission could give sectors of up to 40 kilometres width.

Finally there could be missions defending the capital and other exposed urban centres against coup air or sea landings.

Even if the planning missions would not be the real defence tasks, the collection of missions itself and the Allies’ use of these for their ‘professional reboot’ planning exercises would add to deterrence. Limiting the options in each frontline state to a handful of brigade group missions would ease host-nation support to the planning exercises, as well as increase lateral learning between Allied land forces that have planned for the same option.

When given a task in a Baltic state, an Allied land force will choose a mission from the catalogue. The selected brigade group staff selected for “re-booting” will then create an outline war plan for their mission and sector, involving the commanders and staffs of subordinate and attached battalions and independent sub-units. This outline plan must cover the full spectrum of problems and issues such as logistic, host nation, legal, cooperation with local military and civilian authorities, communications, air defence, indirect fire support, engineer unit missions, information policy, etc.

It is not to recommend that such staffs should remain bloated. Contrary to staffs expanded for peace-keeping, COIN and stability operations, planning and controlling conventional combat requires very few, extremely high quality officers at the core of the operations and logistics staff elements, the remainder being either supporting specialists such as fire support and engineer planners, intelligence specialists, liaison officers and the watch-keeping warrant officers and attached officers.

The traditional British brigade staff core consists of four officers, one major (staff trained) and one assisting captain focused on operations and another major (staff trained) and assisting captain responsible for logistics and administration. The small elite core made decision making fast and focused. It minimises the risks of friction and misunderstanding. The Cold War period Danish brigade staff core was not much larger.

Another problem we all have to address in the way land forces prepare to command and fight: we know that all satellite based command, control, navigation – and thus precision fire systems – will be exposed to a massive and varied cyber, electronic warfare and physical attack at the onset of hostilities. We can not predict the outcome, but we can and must improve resilience by reducing full dependence.

Thereafter the brigade group and subordinate unit staffs will conduct an extended reconnaissance and coordination visit to develop and adjust the outline plan and requirements to match the actual terrain and infrastructure. And it should engage the actual local forces such as the border guard/police, neighbour units, any host nation support and territorial forces involved in rear area security.

Then the corrected plan must be fully tested through a series of focused war games. These seek to expose weaknesses all the way to the combat phase from the planned mobilisation, movement to across borders to the deployment area, establishment of base and forward logistics area, and host nation support.

The gaming should cover both a crisis period and actual combat.

The gaming input and assessment should be completely independent of the sending nation, and be led by a senior retired officer from another army. They must include legal expertise, military historians (alert to likely friction to add that to the play), experts on current Russian doctrine and capabilities (cyber and electronic warfare, indirect fire support, air operations, special operation forces), as well as representatives of the local military and civilian authorities. All games should be recorded to support analysis.

Lessons learned in the gaming phase are to be built into in the exercise operations plan, and shape requirements for cadre training and force development, and must lead to the removal of ineffective officers.

Another full planning cycle from the choice of mission to the formulation of lessons learned should be conducted with the brigade group and subordinate and supporting units in two-three months, to make sure that the commander and staff have started relearning their profession.

Second phase: Relearning command and control in combined arms combat
The lessons learn from the first war planning cycles are to be transformed into brigade group command post exercise (CPX) scenario in the brigade’s own country.

All CPX for the brigade group should last a minimum of four full 24-hour days to ensure the development of sustainable working procedures. The longer the more effective. After 10-14 days, best practice staff procedures become routine. During the whole CPX the commander and staff should be forced to plan for two different tactical tasks in parallel and to conduct a full orders sequence with warning, as well as preliminary and execution orders every day.

To do this should be possible also as the brigade main HQs moves at least twice a day and with the brigade commander absent with his mobile tactical command post. Moving HQs are necessary because of the likely low troops density, high threat and therefore mobile fighting framework of a Baltic conflict scenario. There will exist constant risks of raids by special operations forces patrols, artillery fire and air attack.

Moves interrupts work, but the more moves are practised, the less so.
To regain high mobility, brigade staffs should – as a principle – be reduced to their Cold War size and configuration, which may necessitate a preparation to work without cumbersome and vulnerable digital paraphernalia for jamming-resistant, and emission-free combat proven tools and procedures such as analogue pens and notebooks.

The resilience of the planning and command tools shall constantly be tested against cyber and electronic warfare attacks, so the HQs may use alternative command and control procedures if their favoured tools fail.

A U.S. Armored Brigade Tactical Command Post … Far better, if full air supremacy and no Russian long range artillery systems around:

Third phase: Relearning unit command
After the brigade has been rebooted through its work with the Baltic mission catalogue exercises and CPX activities, the next phase is the professionalization of the reinforced combat battalions.

This can only be done properly in similarly minimum length – four days – highly intensive field training exercises that are inspired by the same scenario, but conducted in a national and later in larger allied training area.

As at the brigade level, the battalion command and control should be forced to plan and operate simultaneously, some of the time while moving, or alternatively with three moves of the headquarters every day and with the commander away from the HQs.

As during the CPX, the field training exercise should deliberately test usually weak and difficult points.

The battalion HQs should be drilled to operate under own force protection, emphasising camouflage and emission discipline under constant pressure from the risk of enemy artillery fire as well as from electronic detection of and attack against its communications. To regain agility, focus and lower their profile, battalion HQs should be reduced to their pre-COIN missions’ size of a handful officers, and the commanders should relearn to command from the tactical command post.

Even this can be significantly improved

Replacement of battalion commanders and key staff due to casualties should be tested regularly.

Their subunits (companies) should likewise remain constantly aware of the risks of artillery and remain dispersed, especially when not moving.

As in the brigade commando post exercises, the battalion field training exercises should be controlled and umpired dynamically to expose weaknesses and mistakes.

Both at brigade and battalion levels, an officer’s lack of practical knowledge, physical and mental stamina or leadership ability should lead to the immediate replacement. Otherwise the reboot will remain a fiction and the land force in question a waste of resources.

In order to regain effectiveness quickly, both the minimum four days brigade command post exercises and similar length battalion field exercises should be conducted twice a year.

Fourth phase: Relearning deployment readiness
All combat readiness objectives will remain unrealised as long as all exercises are pre-announced.

In order to regain readiness, both the brigades and battalions should be exposed to a new readiness regime, where they might be exposed to NATO HQs initiated “Tactical Evaluation” exercises (actually the soft CREVAL regime rebooted) without warning, and the commanders/acting commanders and staff ordered thereafter required to solve a theoretical tactical problem in terrain near their garrison, ending with formal orders, at the same time as the readiness and availability of key equipment and ammunition stocks are inspected.

The armies would have to be inspired by the tactical evaluation inspections of the airforces

Military Balance Guide for Dummies … updated

To conclude on the basis of numbers only is easy, and the result is equally easy to present convincingly with the support of graphs. However, anybody who bothers to include just a fraction of the relevant strategic and military history soon realise that purely quantitative analysis is meaningless and dangerous as a basis for political decisions on security policy. In order to establish a more solid basis for policy and strategy, one has to use and apply the knowledge and insight of relevant professionals, even if this calls for both hard work learning new stuff and for rare humility.

The current West European view of present Russian revisionist military resurgence still has a relaxed and facile head-in-the-clouds-or-sand character. It is dangerously anachronistic in its views of Russian backwardness and remains based on the amateurish view that comparisons of official budget input and status in the form of basic bean counting of equipment numbers are both relevant and sufficient in the estimate of military power and related options. It seems to be considered an unchallengeable reality and is constantly promoted by shallow political scientists, busy journalists, empty heads on uniforms and parroting politicians.


Their amateur comments and advice quickly worsen an already dangerous situation by reinforcing decision-maker and popular trust in what in reality is a Potemkin Village that is fully transparent to even semi-professional observers from the outside. They will be tempted to test what they rightly see as our intellectually unchallenged combination of self-delusion and bluff.

The guide is for those who are willing to face the complex and unpleasant reality. This small guide will not and cannot present any exact result. It can just offer an approach to gain the essential deeper insight.

The first step is to define the geographical focus (such as the Baltic-Nordic Region within the general European “theatre” of potential conflict) and to accept that military power unfortunately has very little to do with the amount of money spent.

Large amounts of money as well as sorely needed intellectual energy is wasted on:
1) running small and large base complexes for reasons rather unrelated to military power
2) paying salaries for a large number of officers without any recent practical experience and relevant knowledge of or interest in their profession or even their branch speciality
3) paying salaries to a large number of other ranks as well as civilians with no operational or relevant operational support role, many too old to contribute anything, people with no wish to learn or subordinate themselves to the military profession
4) paying salaries to underemployed full-time personnel in positions where a contract or even drafted reservist would be the better choice
5) supporting education systems that actually undermine military professionalism by seeking empty theoretical academic credits
6) supporting expensive employment and working hour contract systems that are incompatible with maintaining effective forces
7) implementing New Public Management and similar civilian fads that undermine the essential clear link between authority and responsibility for advice and implementation
8) living up to the agreed environmental standards of the state that add nothing to military effectiveness
9) maintaining elements of force structures only or mainly relevant for national prestige, anti-terrorism, ceremony or peace time work (such as fishery inspection, gendarme work, etc.)
10) covering pensions for retired military personnel
11) covering the cost of the veteran support system
12) covering costs of outsourcing driven by liberal ideology that create dependence on support structures without any military potential
13) covering costs of a general state rescue service rather than only the extra civil defence capabilities only relevant in war
14) covering costs of the general state cyber defence organisation rather than only cyber defence and offence capabilities needed in joint and combined arms operations
15) deliberate derailing of professional focus to chase such fringe mirages as application of “lawfare” to contain destruction and human suffering in remaining conflicts, gender framework for the application of fire and manoeuvre and the pursuit of “green warfare” … those responsible arrogantly assuming eternal peace from large scale war

There may be perfectly good political reasons for all these budgeting choices, but most are irrelevant in a military balance analysis and some even detract from the military effect of the money spent.

On the other side some states such as Russia and China fund large and capable para-military forces with war-time combat or security roles outside the defence budget.

Basically the budgets should be ignored in the analysis of relative power, because the total input necessary to produce the same military effect may be several times larger in one state than in another.

The second step is to accept that simple “bean counting” of the two sides’ number of combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, artillery weapons, etc. is nearly as irrelevant, because it ignores:
1) the availability (with fully trained operating crews, available and trained support crews, spare parts, ample stocks of key weapons such as precision munition, etc.)
2) whether fully modernised/updated (if not, it has very limited general use and cannot be counted in a comparison)

The third step is to understand whether all forces of a country would be available in the potential theatre of confrontation/war (U.S. forces meant for the Pacific and in East Asia cannot be counted as NATO forces for European operations as China and North Korea are likely to use any crisis in Europe to move positions forward … or worse)

Numbers are not irrelevant if all things are equal: the equipment similar, crew standards were comparable, leadership and doctrine at same quality level and the situation symmetrical, however that is hardly ever the case, especially before extended fighting enhances harmonisation.

The initial part of the fourth and decisive step is to identify the number and availability of the force elements that should be counted as the main building stones of military power:
1) On land the relevant output to be counted is the number of basic army formations (brigades)
2) At sea the relevant output is the exercised potential for creating mixed naval task groups that are clearly balanced in composition for the analysed deployment area (with robust command-and-control systems, long range surveillance and warning, mine counter-measures, anti-submarine, long range anti-ship as well as appropriate air and missile defence systems)
3) The relevant air power element to be counted is the number of fully capable composite air combat wings that can be organised from the national air forces (with command-and-control, long range air-to-air, effective electronic and other means for suppressing enemy air defences and a mix of precision and area weapons against ground targets)

Your have to accept that the key to any sound analysis is to concentrate on the comparison of output in the form of fundamentally similar force elements available in the relevant potential theatre of conflict.

However, such a counting and comparison of the number of such force packages is not sufficient. The follow-on analysis is at least as essential and includes e.g. answering the questions that requires the professional insight that is ignored for very good reasons by “experts” that can’t have it:
1) Is the force element well-balanced for the mission? Does it have the necessary combat elements, flexible and robust command and control elements, indirect, long range fire systems with integrated reconnaissance elements (if surface forces), robust area and point air defence systems, engineer support (if land or air units), full and flexible logistic systems, and with resilience and redundancy created by personnel and equipment replacement systems. If not balanced, the force is only a facade usable for bluff.
2) Has the command cadre and the full units been exposed to a realistic and demanding, free-play training and exercise regime and the cadre thereafter been trimmed deliberately on the basis of practical performance to enhance quality? This may be quantified by counting the frequency, length and peace-time limitations of exercises ranging from fully scripted, one type, generic scenario, command post, computer supported exercises at one end of the spectre to unscripted, free-play troop exercises within changing mission scenarios and with deliberate elements bringing disruption of plans to increase friction and realism. Only the latter type of exercises can add significantly to force combat readiness.
3) Does the command philosophy encourage flexibility in execution?
4) Are one side’s forces deliberately handicapped in relation to availability of means (such as cluster ammunition, anti-personnel mines, thermobaric weapons)?
5) Are one side’s forces handicapped in the level of integration and range of indirect fire weapons?
6) Are one side’s forces handicapped by inferiority in key technical fields such as cyber warfare or electronic warfare (e.g. in the air defence/offensive air operations field)?

Even forces such as mechanised brigades that are more or less similar in manning, equipment and technological level can be fundamentally different in de facto capabilities. If one brigade has been through a rigorous, realistic two-year exercise programme and have weeded out inefficient leaders and other cadre and the other brigade has just maintained a peace-time activity level, the second formation simply does not have a military capability. It is just another waste of state funds.

It is important to accept that some forces cannot be directly included in the force comparison for a specific part of the potential conflict theatre such as large oceanic surface and submarine naval warfare units in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and East European operational context. The same applies to the general nuclear forces of Britain, France, Russia and the U.S.

In the force comparison it is essential to accept that multinational land forces with mix at brigade or lower levels are as militarily ineffective as they may be effective as a symbol of political solidarity. Due to language, equipment and training differences and diplomatic politeness they must be considered military Potemkin Villages if the bluff is called.

One final element: In relation to land forces it is essential to underline the fundamental operational handicap of the defender.

Normally we think that a defending unit can defeat an attacking force 2-3 times as large. This, however, assumes that the attacker must attack frontally, that no side has a clear artillery advantage, and that neighbouring units are in place to prevent the defender being bypassed. If the Russians had to assume that NATO would and could act offensively, they would have no advantage, but Western Alliance political cohesion requires a defensive posture.

Mobile (mechanised) land combat forces do not have the mobility of air and naval forces to concentrate and engage the enemy where and when he emerges. With a couple of thousand kilometres of threatened sectors on the European eastern border, the side with the freedom to choose the time and places of invasion needs far fewer forces than the defender that have to screen all possible sectors and therefore will have significant forces deployed in sectors that prove to be irrelevant. A brigade or battalion can only screen a limited sector of threatened border and defend even less.

A platoon to company detachment blocking a road will be destroyed by artillery in minutes and only the quality of any obstacles will create delay. A well-equipped and led battalion with engineer elements, robust air defence and long range artillery support can hold a frontage of around five kilometres with one major road for some hours. If no neighbours, it will thereafter be forced to withdraw or be bypassed and destroyed. A brigade can cover 2-3 times that frontage and two major roads.

Even a two to one superiority in land forces will not ensure success for the reactive side on the eastern border. When part of these forces can be freed and arrive at the actual invasion, the invader is most likely to have the tactical defence advantage, meaning that the late arriving force of the defender will need a three-to-one superiority to succeed.

On the accelerated Russian Military Build-up: the strategy history perspective

It happens in all fields:
* In the modernisation of large stocks of good late Cold War equipment to make them better than the majority of Western systems and less vulnerable to these.
* In massive exercises such as the current Zapad 2017.
* In the creation of new forward deployment bases.
* In the consolidation of ever more effective bastions in places such as Kaliningrad Oblast and Crimea.
* In the effective and self-critical lessons-learning from the Syrian experience.
* In the comprehensive testing of both strategic cyber warfare and tactical reconnaissance-strike systems in the Ukraine.
* In the creation of new large formation and the re-focusing of the conscript based reserve element to make the forces robust.
* In the creation of large heavy lift tank transporter units to make fast and flexible forward deployment possible.

The dynamic military reformer Nikolai Ogarkov, who tried to adjust to the Western Surge and his current successor Valery Gerasimov, who can benefit from a Russian military military reboot that has still not inspired the West to take the challenge seriously.

What Valery Gerasimov is doing now is similar to what Nikolai Ogarkov did during his years as General Staff Chief from 1977 to 1984 with his Operational Manoeuvre Group and enhanced readiness package: Not preparing for an inevitable war, but for a “Victory in Europe”-chance if war becomes inevitable or necessary for the state.

This is the key duty of any serious armed forces’ leader … in case the reader has forgotten.

The accelerated Gerasimov effort requires “full spectrum” preparations in all fields – geo-strategic, information, cyber warfare, conventional operational and logistic, etc. – as always built on the Military Doctrine’s scientific analysis of enemy’s and own developing strengths and weaknesses in all fields.

The correlation of forces is presently in Russia’s favour and shifting even further in that direction:

1) Compared to 35 years back, the U.S. armed forces are unable to maintain the number of units. The costs of replacing existing platforms and systems – especially but not only in the USN – have become prohibitively high. No matter what Trump does to change the trends by am increased Pentagon budget, he cannot find funds for approaching what Reagan and his Naval Secretary did then. The life extension potential for many platforms is limited, and the sums required for just maintaining all systems and reach what Russia has achieved since 2008 are staggering. Western catching-up with what has been lost in the last twenty years in the electronic warfare field and in high intensity warfare professionalism in officer command cadres may take a full decade (if we started, now which we don’t).

Unfortunately Gerasimov will not allow his navy to build a “luxury fleet” such as Gorshkov’s that might have triggered a bout of USN creativeness to maintain quantity at a “good enough” platform level rather than insisting on the prohibitively costly sublime.

2) The U.S. can no longer pull forces from the Pacific. It cannot concentrate to Europe and the Atlantic in the way in did after the Vietnam War. Now China is likely to take advantage of any concentration towards the east of the far more limited forces. The American situation is that of 1941-42.

3) Then the U.S. had far more militarily robust allies in Europe. It was before the German Armed Forces were reduced to under-trained remnants counting working hours waiting for weapon systems in various private workshops to prove willingness to out-sourcing/before the conventional British Forces dropped all focus and capabilities for conventional deterrence and fighting/before the French conventional Armed Forces lost the remaining ability beyond internal security at home and in the former colonies. Even smaller NATO member states had meaningful forces in the 1980s. That is no longer the case.

So where Ogarkov’s task was tough, Gerasimov’s is less so. However, both were limited by the lack of economic sustainability of his Military Doctrine. Ogarkov’s window of opportunity was closed in autumn 1983 and he was moved by Andropov’s frightened successor early the next year. If or when Gerasimov’s window is closing is an open question.

Putin’s physical and political health seems to be a good deal more robust than his predecessor Andropov’s was in autumn 1983.

So far NATO members have tried optimistically with some flimsy window dressing. Cannot do much more with the resources available.

A Simple Model for National Strategy Discourse

Just for information my latest fully “Clausewizian” version of a total strategy model … as a framework for understanding what has been missing in Western strategy making in a quarter century.

The original – more naïve – version below was used in my strategy and military doctrine development lecturing for many years. It had been developed three decades back from Général André Beaufre’s classical total strategy model.

Why Russia Cannot be Appeased … and What Then

In order to find a way to co-operate with Russia, one has to understand how the present and coming elite have come to see, reject and counter the West.


In the present Russian leaders’ understanding the Soviet Union Empire did not only collapse in 1991 as a result of the economic crisis and the leadership’s loss of belief in their project’s future. They believe that it also happened due to deliberate actions of hostile forces in the West, mainly the U.S. They exploited the weak – and thus bad – Soviet leaders and illoyal small nations such as the Baltic peoples and – much worse – the Ukrainian nationalists to achieve their aim of depriving Russia of her rightful place in the World. These hostile forces continued their work until finally found out and confronted by Vladimir Putin, the new strong and thus good Russian leader that joined the former great rulers that pulled a weakened country out of crisis and moved it towards revival such as Ivan Grozny, Peter the Great, Katherine the Great and Josef Stalin.

The present Russian leaders consider a state and its leaders as hypocritical or naïve if not built on power and not exploiting all tools to enhance its position in its region and the world. The idea that human beings or states can work in equal partnership for common good is a false mirage exploited by the stronger, as the U.S. did with Russia in its period of weakness.

In domestic repression this includes employment of such types as the Chechnyan dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and his henchmen

All relationships are built on power between the dominant side and the dependent client. Thus the EU and NATO are just intelligently manipulated fronts of U.S. power employed to weaken Russia and other states that stand up to it. The whole concept of democracy, the liberal civil society and its trimmings of equality of opportunity, justice and a free press is meant to undermine opposition to America gaining world power. The notion of such positive values are employed in a hybrid tandem with open and unilateral use of own or client military power to enhance U.S. power as against Serbia in 1999 and against Iraq in 2003. What happened in Ukraine in 2014 was a successful Russian response to an American attempt to move the Ukraine from the natural, historically rightful Russian client status to that of the U.S. Here the U.S. initially used non-military means in the spectrum of total, hybrid warfare, employing the “front” of Western sponsored NGO.

The whole set of liberal ideas of truth and historical truth is seen as fundamentally naïve and false. The truth is what furthers the aims and power of your country and the internal power of the leader group. The Soviets were basically limited in their propaganda by their commitment to the class struggle where something was just and right – others actions unjust and wrong. Not so the present Russian leaders.

What serves the promotion of relative Russian power and leadership control is justified. This includes suppression of the free press and any political opposition. It also justifies the full exploitation of the media plus any opposition in the naïve Western societies to further division there and undermine the influence of the U.S. establishment and its allies in the rest of the West.


Actually the Russians have never fought the I.S. Her actions in first Chechnya and thereafter Syria have nourished and worsened the Islamic problem of especially Europe. In spite of this Putin has been successful in presenting Russia as the natural anti-Islamic and fellow xenophobic ally of right-populist forces such as UKIP, Front Nationale, Alternative für Deutschland, Viktor Orbán’s version of Fidesz and Denmark’s “Dansk Folkeparti“. That Putin actually agrees fully with Islamic groups’ contempt and rejection of our ridiculous, anti-macho, and naïve progressive societies cannot be formally recognised by these allies as this will expose their less than full commitment to the values of their societies.

The Russians consider themselves at war with the West, a total if still not open fighting war that we started as already described. Therefore any means to undermine our already weakened cohesion is legitimate, as it will change the correlation of forces in Russia’s favour. A simple and often effective means is to corrupt our leaders by offering personal economic benefits for acting in support of Russia rather than in the interest of your country. The German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is a notable example. Others can be found in both Eastern and Western Europe.


Since late 2011 Russian-speaking minorities have been targeted in a constant propaganda and disinformation campaign meant to develop and strengthen their inherent pride in Russian resurgence and undermine their loyalty to their state of residence.
Aggressive military body-language and explicit threats to use military force to support Russian interests are routinely employed, including the threat of nuclear weapons. The de facto open use of the Russian military in 1999-2000 in Chechnya, 2008 in Georgia, after 2014 in Crimea and the Donbass and since 2015 in Syria has underlined Russian determination to change the world order in Russia’s favour.

During the last years of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. tried constantly to reset the relationship with Russia in a positive direction, including by deliberately limiting the American support of the Ukraine to further the progress towards a compromise with Russia. However, at the same time as pressing the Ukrainians to compromise, both the U.S., Canada and the EU has worked hard to reform Ukraine into a Western type of country by confronting the rampant corruption and creating transparent economic and government structures.

By strengthened civil society in the Ukraine, the West has emphasised its hostility to Russia, because by spreading the naïve notion of fair, free, just societies, we have been doing just what the Russian leaders want us to stop because it is the continuation of the “hybrid warfare” campaign that rolled back Russian control over its empire from 1988 until 2008.


The forward basing of symbolic NATO forces in the Baltics and elsewhere as agreed at the Warsaw Summit should not be seen as a hostile military act, even if is presented as such by the Russians to both the always fairness-seeking, anti-military Westerners and the Putin-supporters that apparently long for the adoption at home of his model repression of the liberal and permissive anti-macho societies. The deployment is a hostile act from our Russian perspective because it will reinforce local determination to resist pressure to enter into the traditional, corruption nourished client relationship that Russia considers natural.

In order to deal with Russia in the future, as we have to do to avoid a misunderstanding that can lead to catastrophe, we have to understand that what Russia considers a threat are the liberal institutions and values that we have spent hundreds of years to consolidate. That is what the Russian leaders work so energetically to destroy, because they correctly senses our loss of focus and will. Russia will seek to undermine our remaining defence cooperation in NATO, not to reduce any military threat, but to gain freedom to roll back the civil liberties in the neighbouring states by all required and suitable means and thereby recreate the corrupt and illiberal great power environment that existed before the First World War.

Let us understand that Russia’s objective is to poison liberal democracies to remove the threat they present to his power and Putin’s country’s ambitions. Let us face that this is incompatible with our interests. Giving the Russians what they really want, appeasing them by no longer being a visible systemic threat, will require the self-destruction of our democratic political system. Even making the superficially limited concession of allowing them to corrupt and crush the aspirations for freedom and justice of such peoples as the Ukrainians will mean that we have quietly surrendered what we should stand for and created dangerous doubt about whether and when we will be willing to stand-up for anything.

(Finnish soldiers)

If we understood and accepted this and gathered the will to act accordingly, then we could develop and follow a policy of peaceful coexistence with Russia, formally respecting her as the world power she continued to be.

If we found that will, we could base such a policy on a minimum nuclear deterrent and robust defensive conventional military posture with an area denial capability like the Finnish. We would then follow a policy that would include co-operation against common threats in such fields of climate change, nuclear proliferation and common real action against Islamic and other terror.

On NATO Burden Sharing to an old Estonian Friend

He suggested that it was understandable that Americans such as Trump were critical of the defence spending of nearly all European Allies. I agree, but also underlined both that the situation had a background in recent history of the Alliance and that a rise it defence spending east of the Atlantic because of that history would not necessarily help in the real requirement, namely of creating capable militaries out of the present inert, over-staffed Potemkin Villages:

From the start of NATO during the Korean War, the U.S. paid the most. The Continental European partners did something else: they committed their full manpower as conscripts and prepared their economies for defence support within the framework of “total defence”. They also took the risk of making their countries available as the main East-West battlefield and thus faced the total destruction.


The U.S. also paid more because as now it was a global power that also had the Pacific theatre to worry about.

In NATO the U.S. was “paid” by having the near total power to decide what happened, and it earned money on producing nearly all hardware of the Allies.

When the Cold War ended, the U.S. (and UK) used that dominating influence to declare that history had ended and the maintenance of conscription was both anachronistic and waste of money. T Keeping conscription was incompatible with membership of the Alliance. Total defence preparations were therefore unnecessary and improper in the globalised liberal economies of the future.

Of the new Central and Eastern European NATO Member States only Estonia kept conscription. The background was the Finnish example that influenced the main architect of the defence forces, former Soviet tank Polkovnik, later Estonian General, Ants Laaneots. This strong character professional convinced his friend Andrus Ansip and the rest of Reformerakond, the Liberal Party, that he was right, because history might not have ended after all.

Most European Allies were happy to comply, advised by shallow-thinking civil servants convinced that history was irrelevant in this Post-Modern Era. The Ministries of Finance applauded. Now the important part of Alliance solidarity was a willingness and to send your soldiers into harm’s way on American Campaigns.

This both your and my country did, and in Afghanistan both Estonia and Denmark had a higher percentage of their contingents killed than the rest, because we served in the Helmand Province where the U.S. avoided striking the Taliban bases in the Quetta area not to offend Pakistan.

We both showed the required solidarity in campaigns devoid of sound and realistic U.S. strategies for success. The result of the loss of conscription and the adoption of U.S.-type grotesquely over-officered peace time staffs meant the loss of balance between number of cadre and number of units with practical service experience opportunities, the loss of combined-arm balance as well as capable logistic units and the disappearance of reserve structures. All European members concentrated on learning and applying the latest NATO (ex-U.S.) buzzwords in the running of their forces. They forgot that in military organisations what counts is the output in capable and sustainable war structure forces, not the defence budget percent of GDP.

If you have unsound structures such as the Continental NATO members now, a budget increase does not necessarily lead to more military effect.

Now we realised and are told that history did not end, that Article 5 is relevant after all, and that the U.S. expect us to have the initial defence forces that the U.S. and Brits told us to abolish in the 1990s. Suddenly solidarity is no longer a matter of symbolic presence in American campaigns, it is about a budget contributions. This Burden-Sharing balancing that amateurs in and without uniforms ask for will not give defence or deterrence without a fundamental re-booting of structures developed since the end of the former Cold War.

“When the wealth and our future was allowed to emigrate” – my 15 October 2011 article republished with a tentative conclusion

Five years ago I published the article below on the blog. It was followed by two more articles discussing the possible implications and politico-economic effects of the described development.

These implications and effects in the West are now all too clear: the loss of mass welfare and a popular belief in the future and in the effectiveness of liberal democracy; a rejection and withdrawal of binding commitments to international co-operation; a withering of the ability and will to domestic political dialogue and compromise and the rise of “brown” opportunistic political movements as a popular reaction to loss of the good, remembered world and the fascination with and yearning for a former great and simple past. All very similar to the reactions in nearly all states in the 1930s.

The only difference between the 1930s and now is the nobody understands how terribly it can end.


The brutally clear-thinking Israeli meta-historian Azar Gat has underlined that there is no real and certain link between liberal democracy and capitalism. A capitalist economy will not necessarily generate a democratic system and democracy is not automatically the ideal and most effective framework for capitalism. The latest twenty years have all too clearly demonstrated that he is correct.

As ahistorical media and nervous politicians are incapable or unwilling to see anything but the closest ‘trees’, they have missed the total character of the ‘forest’ of the current economic crisis. The Western economies North America, Europe, Australia and Eastern Asia do not only lack money because of problems created by short-sighted stupidity of irresponsible bankers investing in the real estate bubble of the previous ten years. We are not only looking at the risk of a ‘second dip’ or even an international depression as the one that started in 1929. The steps taken to contain the actual phase of the collapse equals wetting you pants for warmth in a Siberian blizzard.

Drugged by the ideology of Globalism – capitalism ‘in absurdum’ – where the bankers’ greedy and irresponsible gaming was a comparatively innocent aspect, the West has allowed its wealth to emigrate to breed faster, thereby undermining its own position and future, including the future of the fruits of its culture and civilization.

Religion is the opium of the masses; however the ideologies of the West during the last two centuries have been far more dangerous because they always stopped the critical application of experience, moderation and common sense by the elites. As lemmings intellectuals launch the human race into dangerous experiments guided by repeated buzzwords. No small boy around to remark on the flimsiness of the substance.

Here the ideology has led to a fixed belief that the free movement of capital is automatically to the common benefit of all, ignoring that the purpose is basically to increase the immediate income of the capital owners (that are thereafter beyond the effective reach af the national tax-man). They seem to have forgotten that it was the Western states’ successful efforts to contain the negative workings of capitalism that made it more attractive than socialism in the end. The unbridled capitalism of the pre-WWI era was like an uncontrolled petrol fire. The post-WWII versions had harnessed the energy like different types of petrol engines. Capitalism, necessary for economic innovation, dynamism, rational organisation and motivation, had been harnessed so that it nourished and supported the society rather than destroying its cohesion. The unbridled globalisation of capitalism is as destructive to positive and controlled development the human project as is unharnessed nuclear energy.

The ideology also seems to have blinded the West to ignore that migration of capital linked to production is bound to weaken its banking sector.

During the two decades following the end of the Cold War, an accelerating amount of industrial production left the West. It was not the fault of the Chinese and other developing economies, but of the Western economist and politicians, who ignored that the production and money not only moved to places where the salaries were more competitive. It moved to places where the political leaders deliberately ignored and still deliberately ignore patent rights and copy everything freely.

It moved to places where the rights of labour to organize to improve its salaries and working conditions beyond sweat-shop slavery is blocked by the autocratic police state, places where the environmental conditions is ignored as badly as in the Soviet Union. What was allowed to happen within the framework of Globalisation of industrial production amounted to what would previously have been termed unfair and destructive dumping. However, the economic gurus ignored the certain medium and long time effects. They emphasised the benefits to Western consumers and Western welfare level of the cheap Chinese and other low cost products and started to consider and develop the happy ‘Post-Industrial’ society of increased leisure and service rather than production economies.

The capital thereby freed from common sense and human experience to move by the ideology of Globalisation. It followed the initial cheap production to earn some of the money generated by the unfair dumping of China and to get access to the expanding marked of the world’s largest population. Soon all large Western companies including Japanese and South Korean moved an increasing part of their production there.

The Chinese got legitimate access to the latest patents and technology, and as less and less was produced in the West more and more capital was accumulated and thereafter used to buy the remaining brand and technologies as the Swedish Volvo and Saab. The Western states and local communities were happy to sell the increasingly unprofitable factories unrealistically hoping to keep the workplaces.

However, China will be hit by the recoil when the Western markeds collapse and default on its debt. The present accelerating slow-down is already being felt.

Western Universities – forced by another shallow, brainstopping ideology to substitute academic norms and ideals about quality with business principles demanding quantity – were and are happy to accommodate the armies of paying Chinese students that sap into the ideas and technological innovation that might otherwise have generated some resurgence of Western production. A Chinese recently bragged that he had gained access to iPhone5 technologies plus software and was already producing a pirate copy before the original. In a country as ridden with corruption as China his claim could be true.

The result of the fiction of a Post-Industrial economy is that the West is now without both capital and an acceptable future. Political leaders underline to their people that they are not going to compete with the salaries in lower income areas in Mexico or Eastern Europe – not to mention those of developing Asia. Banks now fail not just because of irresponsible speculation, but because the only robust part of their income should come from interests of loans given to sound and competitive production and from loans to individuals involved in that production. States have similar problems because the only solid taxation is from competitive production and related external and internal services.

Western politicians hope and conjure up that their borrowed welfare will be safeguarded by new Green technology, opportunistically ignoring that there is absolutely no chance that such production cannot be done much cheaper in China, both because it is more profitable for Western companies and because the ideas are transferred as they co-developed by the Chinese students.

They hope against all evidence that China will go the way of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea and become more normal and democratic and allow its now established advantage to slip. This is where Azar Gat’s analysis is so awkward. In the meantime they muzzle their concerns about the status of human rights in the country.

They pretend that the main problem of their economies is their aging population, ignoring that there will neither be productive jobs nor the previously hoped for paid leisure for those who will get ever older – at least for as long as there is money to sustain the full health system. They are happy to notice that China is facing the same problem of an aging population, ignoring the still vast labour supplus in the interior as well as the very limited social support spent on old Chinese people.

No state can maintain its wealth if it cannot produce at a combination of competitive price and superior quality that make the products attractive. Even well engineered and rationally produced German products of well-established brands are now coming under pressure due to the far too high cost of any production in Europe, and even if a significant part of the parts come from China or other low cost countries. Our remaining industries stand on quicksand.

Within the fiction of a still rich West, they have adopted the ideas of ‘New Public Management’ that have added a massive non-productive, Soviet type ‘nomenklatura’ to the already large public sectors without any evidence that the resulting control and centralisation add any benefits.

In an attempt to prepare for the ‘Post-Industrial’ fictional future, they have increased the number of university students far beyond the requirement and available talent. It has been done by lowering the student quality and academic staff morale within the irrelevant business ideas of the management fad.

Anyone with a minimum of historical sense knows that the unhappy result of academic overproduction is the creation of a large group of frustrated unemployed academic youth that will nourish and drive revolutionary protests – as we now see illustrated on both sides of the Mediterranean. They are not going to make easier the necessary dramatic downwards adjustment of welfare in the probably vain attempt to regain competiveness.

The reaction is now starting. Argentina tries to counter the development by legislation aimed at stopping capital flight and ensuring some taxation of multinational companies.

The Americans experience the fast collapse and proletarisation of a middle class. It could not be sustained without a basis of industrial production. They ask from their bankrupt position that China revalues its currency to make completion fairer. The Chinese threaten trade war. Due to the emigration of capital from the West the Chinese hand is the far stronger, but in self-defence of its future the American democracy will accept the challenge and initiate protectionist measures.

For Europe the situation is far worse. Heavily endebted, with some very inefficient economies, with fast falling income from exports, lack of labour mobility, inability to act quickly in crisis due to its decentralised and democratic decision making organisation and with a tradition to break rank and appease under pressure – hoping for miracles around the corner. Without drastic and painful adjustment we now stand at the end of some often nice 400 years.

Some may argue that the West has always been able to get out of economic depression after some years. My reply is that it was never in a situation where there general collapse of relative competiveness was in relation to asymmetric outsiders with significant reserves of both capital and well educated labour.

History Repeated to Threaten Our Future …. Again

Franco and Hitler, formerly the preferred Allies of populist nationalists in both Europe and America (such as Charles Lindberg) against the perceived main threat. As with Putin now, they could underline that Franco acted in support of the Church and Christian values.

During the Interwar Period, Western liberal democracies were threatened by totalitarian/authoritarian forces from both left and right, but very few were willing confront the double challenge (with the core parts of the Nordic and German Social-Democratic Parties as the notable exceptions).

One example: During the mid-1930s the Danish Social-Democratic led Government asked the State Security Police to report on the threats to the Denmark from both the totalitarian Right (Nazi Germany) and from the International Communist Movement and the Danish Communist Party. The report underlined the different character of the two threats, but saw both as extremely serious.

The Social-Democratic Party parliamentary election poster from 1935, the year of the State Security Police two parallel threats report, showing the Prime Minister, Thorvald Stauning. The text reads “Stauning or Chaos. Vote for the Social-Democratic Party”.

Large parts of the Centre-Right forces allied themselves with the totalitarian Right. Communists, and democratic Socialists were grouped together as enemies. In the same way Centre-Left forces allied themselves with the Communists and Popular Front movements against both democratic Conservative and Fascist Forces.

Now we see the same destructive hunt for dangerous simplicity. In their hatred and fear of the destruction of their way of life by Muslims and other Migrants, Centre-Right political forces (both fundamentalist economic Liberals and Conservatives) want to ally themselves with Putin’s Russia, incapable of realising that she is as hostile to their safe future as the Islamists. Actually the Russian view of individual liberty is a mirror of that of the Islamic forces. The urge for simplicity that formerly meant that Communist and democratic Socialists (and Jews) were grouped together means that all Muslims and other migrants and other foreigners are seen and treated as enemies, thereby threatening to make this an unmanageable reality.

Unfortunately the populist Danish People’s Party spokesmen and supporters have now joined Front National, UKIP and the White Power part of Trump’s supporters.

A later use of the same motive from a “Dansk Folkeparti” election poster, the populist Centre-Right Party that now have joined their fellows in “understanding” and support for Putin.

On other side we see the Left being incapable of seeing and treating Radical Immigrants as a problem and challenge to their future. Thereby they mirror the self-destructive naïvity of the former Popular Fronts.

The only positive sign is that some Social Democrats seem to realise once more that two evils have to be confronted at the same time. However, the Social Democratic movements are far less powerful than 80-90 years back, and the media’s Facebook-reinforced hunt for Red/Left-Blue/Right simplicity undermine the move towards what is now desperately needed.