NATO Europe can only be defended by solidarity in holding the front.

In the 1950s and again after 1976: solidarity assistance for members directly threatened

From the development of NATO from 1950, everyone understood that the vulnerable member states bordering the Soviet-controlled areas should be given substantial help to defend themselves.

This became crucial for countries such as Denmark and Norway. We were shown solidarity by massive military and by joint financing of bases and other infrastructure. Moreover, we the directly threatened countries could be protected from the outset by the superior American ‘nuclear umbrella’.

When, the threat was again from the mid-1970s felt to be acute at the same time as NATO sought to reduce dependence on the early use of nuclear weapons, the Alliance decided that the directly threatened areas (such as Norway, Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany), should not be defended solely by Alliance standing units stationed the countries and the mobilised reserve units of frontline members.

From about 1980, non-invasion-threatened member states contributed to the combined defence of the eastern border with earmarked reinforcement units of both air and ground forces.

Planning and preparations could be made both bilaterally and within the framework of the then existing NATO command structure. In the case of Denmark; the Northern Region (AFNORTH) and the Danish-North German Unified Command (BALTAP).

From 1999 to the present. no real solidary with the front

When NATO was enlarged 20-27 years ago to include first the Eastern European countries and then the Baltic States, it was considered inappropriately hysterical in old member states that the new members felt threatened by Russia.

Embarrassed partners pressured them to suppress their anachronistic threat perception in the development of their small armed forces. Keeping conscription was ridiculed as anacronistic.

Even when Russia seized Crimea in a coup in 2014 and launched the war for Donbas with Ukraine, partners did not provide significant assistance in support of the now accepted Baltic states’ small self-defense forces. They did not get military assistance that they needed as Denmark had desperately needed it in the 1950s. The Baltic States remained limited to what their small human and financial resources could do.

If the early NATO history had been remembered and learned, the non-invasion-threatened hinterland members would have provided massive arms and infrastructure support.

This did not happen, which means that especially the directly threatened Baltic countries are only weakly defended with almost exclusively light forces.

Nothing significantly changed, even after Russia launched a general invasion of Ukraine at the end of February 2022, and after 17 December 2021.

On that latter day the Russian Government had announced in an ultimatum to NATO that it demanded a military rollback of the only token Partner forces from Eastern Europe.

The ultimatum should have made it obvious, that that NATO had stressed that the defence of the Alliance front would be done with earmarked ground and air reinforcements that would be deployed when ready towards the Alliance’s eastern border.

As after 1976, all rear partner members should have made an effort to re-establish significant reserve forces earmarked for the frontline states and especially the Baltics. They should have started routine training i the region, and stored equipment and ammunition i depots there.

It would also be clear that the framework for such an effort would have been a new regional military NATO command, where core elements were detached immediately from SHAPE.


The fiction is maintained that defending one’s own territory is not only the minimal requirement, it is sufficient. This fiction is maintained in NATO and at home. It is brain-dead but apparently politically and bureaucratically convenient.

But being able to defend one’s own country in a rear member state is only the starting point, not enough.

The actual defence of a member state such as Denmark or the Netherlands must again take place forward of its own territory as happened from 1951 to 1990,

This must once again be achieved through a joint effort of solidarity, including at the border of the vulnerable front member states.

Their defence cannot just be the responsibility of others. It is also in the key interest of the Swedes, the Dutch, etc.

If the Baltics fall, we too are soon lost as left to own resources. To think that we will then have alliance protection of Denmark is a completely irresponsible stupidity.

The fact that we do not have this understand as a common starting point shows more than anything else, the decline in the Danish and other European understanding of security and defence policy.

The Balts should, of course, have made this reality clear to everyone a long time ago. Not only diplomatically, but through academics also publicly.

They should have acted in a timely manner as the little boy in the store og “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

They should have stressed the common need for comprehensive solidarity assistance in common defence.

Their discretion is probably partly due to the fact that they have been grateful for the symbolic little they have achieved, and partly to the fact that they recognize that the rear members from Germany via Great Britain to Denmark are now completely “without clothes”.

They have therefore had to trust that Ukraine could last until we woke up.

The Balts realistically and fatalistically acknowledged that the non-directly threatened alliance partners had downgraded and disbanded the land and air units that ten years ago could and should have been restored and prepared as earmarked reinforcements from 2022.


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 humbly 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 it takes humility.

The current West European view of present Russian warfare still has a relaxed and facile head-in-the-clouds-or-sand character. It is dangerous in its easy observations of Russian backwardness and crudeness of tactics.

It apparenty 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 assumes that we have learn and assimilated the lessons of the present war as well as the Ukrainians and that the Russians cannot learn anything.

Russian strategic resilience may be limited, but a good strategy is not based on optimistic hope

All this seem to be considered unchallengeable realities and is constantly promoted by shallow political scientists, busy journalists, “military analysts” uncritically echoing each other as well as parroting politicians.

This guide is for those who are willing to face the complex and unpleasant reality. It 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 or Ukraine/South-Western Russia 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) 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.)
9) covering pensions for retired military personnel without any reserve function in the armed forces’ budget
10) covering the cost of the veteran support system in the armed forces’ budget
11) covering costs of outsourcing driven by liberal ideology that create dependence on support structures without any military potential (because they are not deployable reserve structures)
12) covering costs of a general state rescue service rather than only the extra civil defence capabilities relevant in war
13) covering costs of the general state cyber defence organisation rather than only cyber defence and offence capabilities needed in joint and combined arms operations.

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. Military capability can only be measured with a focus on the combination of quantity and quality of the output. Focus on the ressource input breeds waste and loss of professionalism.

On the other side some states such as Russia and China fund large and capable para-military forces with war-time 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.

This is not easy to achieve when the U.S. has focused on the fellow NATO member states’ commitment to spend 2 % of the GDP on defence (that has led to a creative industry to transfer other budget post to defence).

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 committed to the now highest priority Pacific-East Asia Region 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 (including a disputed control of the air space), 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 numbers 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 including against drones, 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. It can only be balanced by preparations such as deep systems of obstacles to movement and concrete reinforced defence positions such as those now created by both the Ukrainians and Russians in the current war.

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. With fully developed defences and obstacles, the defending force can defeat a far larger force than one double or trippel its strength.

However, if there is no deep preparation of the terrain for defence such as in the Kharhiv Oblast last September, a mobile force inferior in size can defeat a numerically superior defending force. 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.

When I read text comparing forces, I see a strong tendency to ignore the fact of geographical dispersal and the requirement to chose where to deploy. It is as if the commentator believes that the two sides will be forced to commit their forces to meet the opposite number in a direct, frontal fight as if in the stricts confines of a medieval tournament. This is of course rubbish. Both sides will seek to outmanouver the opponent and the side in offensive has by far the best chances to achieve this.

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.


On ways to man an army… the full discussion (updated 7.2.2023)

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”.

It is updated now, because the Ukrainians have validated all the observations and conclusions of the article. They have and are using a mix for these manning options as Denmark did a generation back


I am not surprised that theoretical academics such as Professor Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen still 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 various military unions lobby against conscription using superficial and partly faulty arguments. I am just unhappy if it means that Denmark will get far, far a less balanced and capable 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 Defence and Army leaders  react to any idea of a partial return to the pragmatic mixed manning system that includes some conscription based reserve elements with lack of focus on the common Alliance mission in the Baltic Sea area as well as blindness 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 emerging 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.


The photo above from Richard Fry’s collection shows Harry Lembourn with the two years old daughter Grace in early spring 1928 just before the fateful departure for the Berlin fact-finding late April.

A year ago I finished the work on my book “Sønderjyllands forsvar og Lembourns spionage” (The Defence of South Jutland and Lembourn’s Espionage) that was published on 25 February 2019, on Thordis and Harry Lembourn’s daughter Grace Fry’s 92th birthday. A large part of the book reconstructed the tragic Lembourn family history.

On 8 June Grace died, and on 1 November 2019 her youngest son, Richard Fry, informed me that he had been given the largest part of the family’s letter and photo collection. He asked me to take care of it and if possible hand it over to an interested museum. Then he sent me the collection in three packages, with the last supplement arriving on 27 December.

The parts of the collection relevant for my reconstructed family story added up to more than 2500 letter pages, etc. and more than 250 photographs.

When I received the packages I copied by taking photos and processed for easier reading.

In all key aspects my reconstruction of the family history was confirmed. What I give below is my supplements and adjustments to the narrative.

1920 TO SUMMER 1924
During the winter 1920-21, Harry Lembourn worked as leader of the passport office at the Danish Legation in the Norwegian capital. In reality it was an intelligence service posting as the main mission was to monitor Norwegian and other left-wing activists that tried to enter Denmark. In spring 1919 an international “Bolshevik Central” with military intelligence and passport representatives of the foreign legations had been established in Copenhagen. The main revolutionary threat against Denmark had soon proved to be radical members of the Norwegian Labour Movement.

Harry Lembourn did not meet his future wife during his stay in Christiania. It did not happen until 1922 when they both stayed in Nice. Based on information from the daughter, the book places the meeting in Easter, but the letters make clear that it did not happen until just before Christmas. In a few days over the holiday the brilliant dancer and elegant gentleman Harry courted the 18 years younger Thordis in storming offensive, proposing to her several times and apparently convinced her at visits to the Monte Carlo Casino on 28 December and New Year’s Eve. The parents were informed just after New Year, and Thordis had to counter her mother’s scepticism of the match in her January letters.

As Thordis stay in France into 1924 and Harry’s service with the French Army continued until autumn 1923, they kept in close touch and could meet in France during the first many months of the engagement.

In late 1923 after having returned to Denmark, Harry informed Thordis that he might have to break-up the engagement if he lost his commission in the massive reduction of the number of regular army officers that was one result of the 1922 Defence Laws. If that happened he would not be able to support the marriage economically.

However, early in 1924 he happily wrote Thordis that he had been saved from retirement by Captain Halvor Jessen from the War Officer. He knew Jessen from his work as instructor of the volunteer “Kongens Livjægerkorps” during the war that Jessen had now taken over as commander of the corps in addition to his work as head of the ministry’s mobilization office. The captain had appointed Lembourn as his second-in-command and chief instructor. As made clear in the book the continued connection to Lembourn ended undermining Jessen’s until 1928 promising career prospects.

Lembourn was active in the Copenhagen Citadel volunteer corps until a couple of days before he started in the border garrison of Tondern on 1 April 1924. Harry got three days leave in August so he could travel to Christiania to get married.

1924 TO SUMMER 1927
Thereafter the newly-wed settled to the active social life of the small provincial garrison. Thordis had to learn to ride, Harry trained his conscripts, gave French language lessons, worked to create a local branch of the Alliance Française, practiced his hobby as amateur photographer, and participated in starting a local sports club.

As a natural consequence of his many years long work as instructor for volunteer military corps, he joined as instructor when such a corps, “Grænseværnet” (The Border Guard), was created some months after his arrival by a group a local Danish nationalist activists.

He had first met one of the leading activists, the senior leader of the town’s Danish community, Bank Director Rasmus Peter Rossen, at a party on 11 October.

In his letter to Thordis’ parents Harry only mentions that it was useful that his wife was seated next to a local bank manager at the dinner. He does not mention the discussion he had with the veteran intelligence agent Rossen during that evening or one of the next days about his own interest in intelligence work that Rossen mentioned later than month during the visit of his General Staff intelligence contact officer visit.

Rossen became the first chairman of the volunteer corps board, and it was he who later dispatched Harry Lembourn on his fateful fact-finding trip to Berlin in spring 1928.

Reading the letters one gets the solid impression of a very close and intensely happy married couple. Apparently Harry did not hide anything from Thordis who was aware that the instructor work for the still officially unrecognized “Grænseværn” was a risk to his career in the army.

Lembourn’s work to reinforce the defence of South Jutland was not limited to the volunteers. Another of Halvor Jessen’s ideas was to train and test the former World War I German Army veterans to become Danish reserve officers and NCO for the “South Jutland militia”, the reserve units created on mobilization from the veterans. Lembourn ran courses for the Tondern battalion of that militia.

The Francophile Lembourn is recognized by France’s diplomats. In late March 1925 he and Thordis visited Copenhagen, and during the visit, they spent time with Captain André Sorne, “one of Harry’s French friends”, and the next week they met Sorne’s superior officer, the Military Attaché, Colonel de Saint-Denis.

Early July they were visited by the French Consul in Esbjerg, Paul Kraemer, who as described in my book would be instrumental to the misfortune of the Lembourg family in his role of French intelligence in Jutland.

The the otherwise comprehensive letter and photo collection is without sources to the period from Grace’s birth in late February 1926 until spring 1929.

Based on the content of the rest of the collection there should have been dozens of letters to Thordis parents as well as letters between Harry and Thordis during Harry’s communications course in Versailles during the first quarter of 1927. But these are lacking as are photos from the same period.

The most likely explanation for the destruction is that the letters would have exposed the close relations between Rossen and the Lembourg couple during the next two years and thus undermined Harry’s effort to keep Rossen’s role in sending him to Berlin secret.

However, even if the expected letters and photos are missing, the collection contained something that helped explaining what motivated events. As already described in the book, Rossen became intensely worried in the second half of 1927 that the German nationalists were preparing to carry-out a coup invasion of South Jutland to move the border back north. A small envelope with newspaper clippings in the collection’s general collection of newspaper cuttings documented that a new local movement named after the old border river, Kongeåen (in German Königsau) had started an aggressive campaign with the mayor of Flensburg, Hermann Todsen, as one of the leaders. Other clippings describe how Stahlhelm created motorised columns in eastern Pomorania close to the border of the “Polish Corridor”.

At the same time the para-military Stahlhelm militia had started to create branches among the German minority north of the border. Rossen had briefed Lembourn in the autumn of the need to carry-out the fact-finding visit to Berlin and correctly informed Lembourn that the General Staff Intelligence Section would be interested in anything he could find-out about the German militias. However, Lembourn did not get time to make the trip until next year, when the dedicated General Staff Intelligence liaison officer to the South Jutland intelligence districts had been prematurely retired.

Reading the letters from the periods before and after it seems most unlikely that Harry had not involved his wife in everything that he planned to do. Most likely it was Thordis who destroyed all letters from early 1926 until summer 1928 and all photos linked to the volunteers immediately after Harry’s arrest at the border.

For obvious reasons the collection does not add to the German and official Danish actors’ motives for acting as they did. It is covered to the extent possible in my book and my coming article in “Fra Krig og Fred”, the journal of the Danish Commission for Military History: “Om Nils Arnberger, den svenske marineattaché, der i 1928-29 var tysk agent mod Danmark”. The article narrates how Denmark had to be presented as an ally of France and Poland to get a political decision in the German Government to build the first pocket battleship. And to give Denmark a strong warning for the alleged hostility, Lembourn had to be given a severe sentence. However, the contents of the letters about events at the Leipzig trial strongly reinforce the article’s thesis.

When Harry Lembourn was moved from Leipzig to Gollnow in north-eastern Germany following President Hindenburg’s reduction of the sentence to five years fortress arrest, Thordis and her two small children followed him and settled in a rented room in the town’s market square. During the next year the family could meet during Harry’s five hours daily time outside the prison and his cell. The letter collection documents how this year was used in an intensive campaign driven by Thordis’ energy and strong will and with the support and active public contribution of the old lawyer Oluf Heise.

Heise’s criticism of Danish authorities’ handling of the case was considered awkward, and the authorities convinced Harry’s brother Edgar and his youngest sister Alice (Alix) that Thordis and Harry should break with Heise as his efforts was counter-productive. However, they failed, and Heise continued his work.

The work to achieve Harry’s release was even more extensive than described in my book and included letters to the French defence minister, André Maginot, and the first of several letters to Hindenburg. However, as described in the book, pressure from increasingly radical right-wing groups made it unsafe to keep the family in Gollnow, and they returned home in early summer 1930, either staying with Thordis parents in Oslo or with Harry’s sister Astrid (“Adda”) at Nyraad east of Vordingborg in southern Zeeland.

The next year became characterized by the continued campaign of Oluf Heise and the friendship between Harry Lembourn and the young German anarchist-pacifist Ernst Friedrich that led to Friedrich’s presentation of Lembourn’s situation and the case for his immediate release in the book “Festung Gollnow” published some months after Friedrich’s release in autumn 1931. The letter collection documents that Friedrich and his wife still tried to help Lembourn and his family after the publication of the book, but still in vain. After a final failure in August 1932 Friedrich concluded that the release was blocked by a group of influential German military officers.

In spite of intensified efforts of Thordis and Heise through the year following the publication of the book, the only result of it’s revelations was that Lembourn was transferred from Gollnow to the prison in Bielefeld in Western Germany at New Year 1991/1932.

1932 saw the continued attempts to ensure Harry’s release, but the letters between Harry and Thordis make clear that their marriage had been brought to the breaking point. Thordis not only drove the campaign to seek his release, she had to find support and money from her and Harry’s family both to keep her and the children alive and to help Harry keep his morale in prison by financing his gentleman’s living style that included buying new lacquer shoos for his dinner jacket and money for the best tailor in town. He fantasied without any sense of realism about his glorious return and the likelihood of receiving the Commander’s Cross of the French Legion of Honour. When hopeful about about his early release he asked her if his full morning suit and best quality riding outfit was ready, and he complained about her continuous failure to understand his horrible situation. What she needed, but rarely got, was statement of optimism and a determination to prevail and fight for his rights.

By mid-November 1932 Harry had become desparate, and he asked Thordis to write the German authorities and win favour with them by blaming the French for having failed to give support by explaining how they had decieved and exploited him.

The letter add little to my book’s narrative of the Danish War Office’s pseudo-investigation of Lembourn’s actions conducted in March 1933 and the discussions in the French Ministry of War in the following weeks. However, in a letter to France in autumn of that year from Norway Lembourn makes clear that the value of the sum sent every quarter that with the value of 400 crowns monthly (equals roughly 16.000 crowns in 2018) was completely insufficient to support the now full family. However, as the money transfers continued at the same level in the following years, the complaint had no effect.

The book described how both Harry and Thordis tried in vain by letters to the Danish Prime Minister in 1934 and the Minister of Finance in 1937 to get his pension. The collection add hitherto missing parts of the correspondence including a letter from 1937 addressed directly to the Finance Committee of the Danish Parliament had had taken the formal decision not to grant pension.

As narrated in the book the family’s fate during the war was bleak during the German occupation of Denmark and Norway, and letters give us details.

Harry had returned to Denmark in spring 1940 to see his family for the first time in seven years. Early March he wrote in vain to the French legation in Oslo to achieve a restart of the support that had ended after the start of the war. He was stopped from returning to Oslo by the German invasion, and during the next months his situation looked hopeless.

However, they the letter make clear that the situation gradually got better in two ways. In autumn 1941 the teenage daughter Grace was given permission to join her father in Denmark, but as he lived as boarder in cheap pensions, she got a good place at a large farm close to Knapstrup Manor.

One year later Thordis joined Harry in Copenhagen. They started to look for a flat, but continued to live in low quality pensions, Thordis spending time in South Zeeland with Harry’s second youngest sister Adda. As the food situation in Norway was desperate, the letters tells the story of the constant effort to help Thordis’ parents in Oslo with food parcels. In summer 1943 Harry’s youngest sister Alix’s husband, a successful lawyer, had found a six room, newly painted apartment in central Copenhagen. With economic help from Thordis parents, Thordis and Harry moved into the flat in the late summer of that year. Thereafter Grace and well as Philip, who was still with his grandparents, could join their parents, and Thordis started to work so that they could pay the rent. She lived in that apartment until she moved to a flat for elderly in the “Peter Lykke Centre” on Amager a short time before her death in early 1991.

The collection adds little new to the book’s narrative of Harry’s attempt to get vindication and pension just after the war. It only makes clear and illustrates with a photo album that Thordis had a job as interpreter for the British Army in Germany at Hamburg in autumn 1946. It does not explain why she ended her contract after only three months in spite of her employers’ satisfaction with her work.

The only supplement to the story about Thordis and Harry’s final effort to get a an income to himself and his wife after his 70 years birthday is the information that the decision in late 1956 to give support by adding extra funds to the intelligence budget lapsed on Harry’s death in early 1958. Thordis had to apply to the Defence Ministry to have the support extended thereafter. In June 1958 it was decided that she would receive 1470 crowns annually, which equals a little more than 20.000 in 2018. No wonder that she complained about Denmark and praised Norway the rest of her life.

In the short narrative of her life that Grace left for Richard, the family’s tragic fate was left out. It simply stated that “My dad was 20 years older than my mum, so when he retired we moved to Norway”. However, in November 1991, she started to collect Harry’s key descriptions from 1937 and 1955 of events in an envelope marked “Papas historie”. It was a little more than half a year after Thordis’ death and Viggo Øhlenschlægers had started his project on 14 March to find out what had happened.

Now we know.

After the wealth emigrated … a renewed publication of a 12 November 2011 article under the impression of the current situation

Flemming Ytzen’s comment to the previous article is important, however it is built on hope that China will behave differently from all other great imperial powers when under pressure of circumstances. The country will start as a mainly economic imperial state – as was England in many parts of the world until mid 19th Century.

Reading China as fundamentally different is not new. In the 1970’s its military behaviour on the borders was diagnosed as fundamentally defensive in character, the use of military force triggered by others and always limited, something that was based on the contemporary analysis of the Korean War 1950-53 and the Indo-Chinese Border War 1962. To put it mildly, the 1979 Chinese invasion of Vietnam undermined this interpretation of the country’s strategic behaviour. So did the new history writing about all aspects of Chinese politics during the Mao years, underlining not only the extreme arrogance and brutality show by the Chinese leadership towards not only the ethnic minorities, but against the Han Chinese. The costs i human lives dwarfed even the efforts of Stalin and Hitler.

I must read very positive evaluations of future Chinese policies as generally naive and ahistorical, most likely founded on a combination of necessary hopeful optimism and the liberal’s bad conscience about Western imperialism and colonialism.

With the ever-growing pressure on the limited ressources of the world from water over energy to minerals and the track record of Chinese actions to employ all necessary means to gain and keep control, I find it hard to see any difference between the actions of the former expanding Western empires and China. Only look at the country’s management of the water from the great Himalayan rivers, in the power play keep exclusive control of off-shore ressources and the policies in Africa and new mineral exploitation possibilities in places like the naively governed Greenland.

The only current limitation is the relative military inferiority that will last only a few years as the collapse of Western power as a result of the lack of economic ability to sustain or replace the forces is fast approaching. In Europe the next few years will bring full disarmament of over-seas expeditionary capabilities.

What will happen all over the West is now well illustrated by the developments in southern Europe. Collapse of production and the earning of foreign currency with an increasing part of the population that depend on government money as pensioners or as white collar public positions. The only parts of the economy that benefit from globalisation are the multinational companies including banks that no longer invest in the West and the agriculture that has been deeply rationalised and mechanised. These sectors can only employ a very small of the national population. Neither are able to form a stable foundation for state revenues. Unwillingness to work in hard or boring jobs themselves, the Western populations have imported workers from low income areas as sailors, farm and domestic jobs and for restaurants and hotels that add to the draining of currency and add little to state income.

Rising energy and mineral prizes as well as import of nearly all finished industrial products means a quickly worsening trade balance. The ever diminishing state income means that they try to cover the expenses with foreign loans, bridging to a post-crisis period that never comes. After some time the lenders get worried and the state bond interest rates rise to an unsustainable level. The states are then forced to cut state expenses, an effort that with further diminish the state revenues. Non-essential expenses such as the maintenance of military forces will be cut early, soon to be followed the all types of public services and subsidies. The ability to maintain infrastructure, import energy and goods will wither away and the populations rather spoiled trough decades will react with social unrest.

In some places the reaction will be to reduce taxes and thereby accelerate the undermining of state functions – without any hope of regaining competitiveness. Others will try heavier taxation to finance the repayment of loans and the maintenance of state activities – only to fail due to the disappearance of money to tax.

That bleak future is a result of Western naivity and ignorance of its own history, including recent history. In delirious hubris at the ‘End of History‘ we adopted raw capitalism as God and Molok, uncritically subordinating any political control and management to the assumed blessings of the ‘Market‘.

We are left without other options than to hope that Flemming Ytzen’s assumed authoritarian but civilized Chinese imperial power will allow us room for rebuilding our societies after the collapse and troubles of the coming decades.

It is now an open question to what extend the results of the progress of Western political civilization – in the Renaissance, during the Enlightenment, in the two decades prior to the First World War and after the Second World War – will survive to the benefit of all humanity: the rights of the invidual, the power balance and social contract between government and citizens of the democracy, the norms and limitations of international war. Both Flemming Ytzen and I know that even if Chinese political culture and norms commits the official to clean and just administration, the current practice is rather arrogant and corrupt, and the rulers only react by sacrificing some of those caught to symbolic execution.

“When the wealth and our future was allowed to emigrate” – a renewed publication of my my 15 October 2011 article republished with a tentative conclusion from November 2016

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 the general collapse of relative competiveness happened in relation to asymmetric outsiders with significant reserves of both capital and well educated labour.

Here in 2016 the political fall-out is becoming all too clear.

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

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.