Technologies for NATO's follow-on forces attack concept: a special report of OTA's assessment on improving NATO's defense response Page: 8
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BACKGROUND: NATO STRATEGY AND THE THREAT
TO THE CENTRAL REGION
NATO's Flexible Response strategy, adopted in
1967, rests on conventional, theater nuclear, and
strategic nuclear forces. It is a strategy for deter
rence based on the idea that:
The price of an attack on Western Europe must
remain the possibility of triggering an incalcula
ble chain of nuclear escalation.'
NATO-which does not want a nuclear war any
more than the Warsaw Pact does would resist
a conventional offensive with conventional
forces, but would reserve the option for deliber
ate escalation should its conventional defense be
unsuccessful. NATO's conventional defense must
"provide a reasonable prospect of frustrating a
Soon after the founding of the Alliance in 1949,
it became clear that for economic and political
reasons NATO would not deploy the number of
army divisions and combat aircraft that studies
showed were required to meet the threat posed
by Soviet forces in Central Europe. NATO's so
lution to this shortfall in conventional forces was
to introduce nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons
compensated for NATO's disadvantage in con
ventional firepower, and reduced the burden of
maintaining large conventional forces. Moreover,
the threat of a nuclear strike against Warsaw Pact
armies gave NATO two distinct strategic advan
tages. It forced the Warsaw Pact armies to dis
perse in order to reduce their vulnerability to a
nuclear strike, which limited their ability to con
duct an offensive strategy based on concentrat
ing massive forces against a prepared defense.
And by confronting the Soviets with the incalcu
lable risk that a conventional attack could set off
a chain of escalation leading to nuclear destruc
tion of Soviet territory, it provided NATO a de
terrent that relied less on the possibility of actu
ally having to fight an intensely destructive modern
war on NATO territory.
General Bernard Rogers, "Follow-On Forces Attack (FOFA):
Myths and Realities," NATO Review, December 1984, pp. 1-9.
Soviet gains in nuclear weaponry led NATO in
1967 to adopt a new strategy, Flexible Response,
which remains in effect today. Flexible Response
relies on a "triad" of conventional, theater nu
clear, and strategic nuclear forces designed to
maintain the credible possibility that a war could
become nuclear and escalate to a strategic nu
clear exchange; that credibility is supported by
a conventional capability which is strong enough
that NATO would not be forced into an early de
cision to use nuclear weapons.
Two important factors govern NATO strategic
thinking. First, both nuclear and conventional ca
pabilities are essential; neither one can substitute
for the other. Second, as a defensive alliance,
NATO is precluded from adopting an aggressive,
offensive military strategy.
These major strategic considerations, along
with the threat and the realities imposed by geog
raphy, shape the current situation in Europe. The
major threat to NATO comes from the continen
tal forces of the Warsaw Pact, concentrated in
Central Europe along the eastern border of the
Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).
in the Central Region, NATO lacks "strategic
depth," while facing an adversary with extreme
strategic depth and the ability to use that depth
to bring large land forces to bear in an offensive.'
While the territory of the Warsaw Pact extends
thousands of kilometers (km) back into the So
viet Union, it is less than 500 km from the inter
German border to the English channel. More
over, the loss of substantial portions of West Ger
many, a major NATO land power in this Central
Region, would be extemely serious for NATO.
The Warsaw Pact has adopted a "blitzkrieg"
strategy that appears to be aimed at defeating
NATO conventionally before NATO could decide
to escalate to the use of nuclear weapons.'This
'One important aspect of strategic depth, especially from the
defender's perspective, is the ability to trade space for time, to fall
back when attacked in order to organize a responsive defense and
to counterattack. Great depth was exploited in this way by the Rus-
sians against the offensives of Napoleon and, much later, Hitler.
4Some analysts believe that a Soviet offensive could be nuclear
from the outset.
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United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Technologies for NATO's follow-on forces attack concept: a special report of OTA's assessment on improving NATO's defense response, report, July 1986; [Washington D.C.]. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc39863/m1/13/: accessed March 7, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.