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Thread: We all know about the Warsaw Pact's weaknesses; what were NATO's?

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    Default We all know about the Warsaw Pact's weaknesses; what were NATO's?

    I was doing some reading/research on the NATO vs. Warsaw Pact confrontation and was struck by a rather "startling" realization. Much of the conversation has focused on Soviet/Warsaw Pact shortcomings and weaknesses. However, nobody has ever had the courage to openly, honestly discuss U.S./NATO shortcomings and weaknesses (yes, we had some). This is as crucial a discussion to have in terms of determining how a hypothetical NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation would have unfolded, as we can all agree. I have in mind a couple of issues that would have dogged NATO, but, since I am doing the asking, I figured I would get some of your thoughts first. Any ideas as to what were NATO's issues? The time period I am looking at is 1975 - 1991; I realize it is an extremely broad period of time, but it seems as thought it would be a more complete discussion to ask in that way.

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    Member Fury 1991's Avatar
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    That each member had its own equipment that would have required a variation of different supplies. Things such as ammo and spare parts. It would have been a logistic nightmare for Nato. WP had the luxury that all of them had the same equipment.

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    Senior Member Piirka's Avatar
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    The Atlantic ocean.

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    Not investing enough towards defense is a common flaw analyzed by a number of author on the subject of NATO during the Cold War.

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    Senior Member [WDW]Megaraptor's Avatar
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    Late 1970s were a time of budget crunches, degrading arsenals, canceled programs, and outmoded equipment soldiering on all over NATO. Many people were seriously doubting NATO's ability to defeat the Warsaw Pact at this time.

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    How's that Hopey Changey thing workin'? C.Puffs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piirka View Post
    The Atlantic ocean.
    Yep. Dependancy on hauling all that war material across the Atlantic was a huge one.

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    Senior Member ~UNiOnJaCk~'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.Puffs View Post
    Yep. Dependancy on hauling all that war material across the Atlantic was a huge one.
    Agreed. Thats's not to say however that NATO didn't already have substantial amounts of hardware on the continent anyway,just reinforcing that presence should things have gone 'hot' would have been a pain in the a*se. Ergo the strategic importance of the UK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eagle9294 View Post
    That each member had its own equipment that would have required a variation of different supplies. Things such as ammo and spare parts. It would have been a logistic nightmare for Nato. WP had the luxury that all of them had the same equipment.
    Ammo!? WTF are you talking about? NATO had standard ammo calibers to facilitate logistics!

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    Senior Member Mordoror's Avatar
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    Much of the conversation has focused on Soviet/Warsaw Pact shortcomings and weaknesses.
    The discussions always focus on the alleged WP shotcomings as they rarely take in account the post 1989 (and beyond) datas
    The analyses on WP potential (either conventional or nuclear) was always highly biases
    Same can be said on NATO

    The shotcomings for NATO were very dependant of the period/era you want to considere
    For example in early 70s there was a shortage of funds, low morale and a rampant drug issue in US army barracks, something that was fixed by late 70s early 80s IIRC

    Most of the shortcomings in fact were the same than for the WP :
    *not standardized equipment/hardware and SOPs (even if it was standardized at some levels like ammos and guns calibers, it was not for spare parts, coms, procedures, command chain .... hell, we are still working on it today)
    *Alliance : meaning every member would have a different view of the way to perform the operations (i bet that German will would have been different from Spanish will)
    *A lot of armies were draft ones (not profesional) with "limited" training that would have made things bloody in case of modern mechanized war in Central Europe
    *informations on WP equipment were often fanciful (be it overrated or underrated)
    *most of the equipment (until mid-late 80s) was in the same spirit that the one in WP :"disposable" (as were the soldiers) due to the expectation of high attrition

    Some are inherent to NATO
    *operatiol doctrine : it was poor or not existant until mi 80s when the TacAir doctrine was imposed. Before that, the field doctrine manuals were pretty empty of anything than the use of nukes to stop red hordes
    * by definition defensive position leaving the initiative of first strike to WP
    * infrastructure : the central europe battlefield on NATO side was too rich in infrastructures (roads, highways, harbors, airfields) : that's both an advantage and disadvantage (especially when opponent is on offensive stance, he can use existing infrastructures to accelerate its progression)
    * landscape : central Germany was not the best defensive field
    * strong communist parties in several western countries that would have had an important impact at political level (as well as possible passive and active guerilla effect)
    *dependency to external energy supply : most of the european oil was (and still is) imported and back in those days it was mostly by tankers ships. Easy targets in the Ormuz straights, Suez Canal and eastern meditteranée sea
    *overstreching : some areas of NATO were less defended than others while as important : an operation in Norway or Danemark would have met less units and probably less resistance than in Central Germany. That's also true if the conflict extended itself beyond the NATO borders (Africa and East Asia come to mind, mostly because a lot if not a majority of African and East Asian countries had turned communist or pro communist mid 70s)

    Out of my mind, that's most of the shortcomings i see right now

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    Senior Member ~UNiOnJaCk~'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordoror View Post
    The discussions always focus on the alleged WP shotcomings as they rarely take in account the post 1989 (and beyond) datas
    The analyses on WP potential (either conventional or nuclear) was always highly biases
    Same can be said on NATO

    The shotcomings for NATO were very dependant of the period/era you want to considere
    For example in early 70s there was a shortage of funds, low morale and a rampant drug issue in US army barracks, something that was fixed by late 70s early 80s IIRC

    Most of the shortcomings in fact were the same than for the WP :
    *not standardized equipment/hardware and SOPs (even if it was standardized at some levels like ammos and guns calibers, it was not for spare parts, coms, procedures, command chain .... hell, we are still working on it today)
    *Alliance : meaning every member would have a different view of the way to perform the operations (i bet that German will would have been different from Spanish will)
    *A lot of armies were draft ones (not profesional) with "limited" training that would have made things bloody in case of modern mechanized war in Central Europe
    *informations on WP equipment were often fanciful (be it overrated or underrated)
    *most of the equipment (until mid-late 80s) was in the same spirit that the one in WP :"disposable" (as were the soldiers) due to the expectation of high attrition

    Some are inherent to NATO
    *operatiol doctrine : it was poor or not existant until mi 80s when the TacAir doctrine was imposed. Before that, the field doctrine manuals were pretty empty of anything than the use of nukes to stop red hordes
    * by definition defensive position leaving the initiative of first strike to WP
    * infrastructure : the central europe battlefield on NATO side was too rich in infrastructures (roads, highways, harbors, airfields) : that's both an advantage and disadvantage (especially when opponent is on offensive stance, he can use existing infrastructures to accelerate its progression)
    * landscape : central Germany was not the best defensive field
    * strong communist parties in several western countries that would have had an important impact at political level (as well as possible passive and active guerilla effect)
    *dependency to external energy supply : most of the european oil was (and still is) imported and back in those days it was mostly by tankers ships. Easy targets in the Ormuz straights, Suez Canal and eastern meditteranée sea
    *overstreching : some areas of NATO were less defended than others while as important : an operation in Norway or Danemark would have met less units and probably less resistance than in Central Germany. That's also true if the conflict extended itself beyond the NATO borders (Africa and East Asia come to mind, mostly because a lot if not a majority of African and East Asian countries had turned communist or pro communist mid 70s)

    Out of my mind, that's most of the shortcomings i see right now

    Bloody brilliant post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your interpretation. The only thing i would say is something you agree to yourself about the issue of infrastructure being a contentious one. It will always be favourable to whoever is in possession of it so at the very outset at least excellent road networks and the like would have proved invaluable in boosting NATO's defence. Also should things have started to have turned in the PACTs favour there would always have been the option of scorched earth-esque style of tactical denial of these infrastructure assets. With this option you will always have the good stuff behind you so to speak. It is a coin you can endlessly flip because you could then argue that should NATO have counter attacked, they would have denied themselves the same benefits they were attempting to prevent the PACT nations from gaining. It is very much as you state and endless debate of pros and cons.

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    Amiable Scoundrel Corrupt's Avatar
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    No matter how many prep talks the officers gave you, how stiff the upper lip and how strong the British spirit, grit and determination was, it never quite got rid of the slight nagging feeling that 1 x British Corps vs 1 x Soviet Army wasn't exactly cricket.
    http://www.arrse.co.uk/wiki/3rd_Shock_Army

    Quote Originally Posted by Norjax View Post
    Ammo!? WTF are you talking about? NATO had standard ammo calibers to facilitate logistics!
    Not everything was standardised though. For example us Brits used 120mm rifled guns on our Chieftains and Challengers, the Leopard 1 was a 105mm rifled and then the Leo 2 used a 120mm smoothbore.
    Last edited by Corrupt; 03-30-2013 at 09:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordoror View Post
    *Alliance : meaning every member would have a different view of the way to perform the operations (i bet that German will would have been different from Spanish will)
    This is the key for me, I've heard several times before that the biggest weakness was that instead of NATO having for example 3 cooperative and conjoined sectors of British, American and German troops in reality there was little communication and cooperation meaning they would each of fought their own little wars regardless of eachother and mutual benefits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corrupt View Post

    The author who wrote the fictionalized "World War III" nicely added Br. II to beef up Br. I. I always wondered if that was even remotely possible given the reality of economic conditions in Britain during the 70s and 80s.

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    Senior Member [WDW]Megaraptor's Avatar
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    I remember reading somewhere that NATO wargaming generally simulated an attack by the Soviets on the American sector, even though the American sector was the most easily defensible area of West Germany. When the side commanding the USSR tried an attack on the Dutch-Belgian or British sectors, the results were not looking very good for NATO.

    A huge fear in the late 1970s was that the Warsaw Pact would launch a conventional surprise attack, overrun outnumbered NATO forces and then NATO would have a choice between surrender or going nuclear.

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    Member vasenta's Avatar
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    NATO and Warsaw Pact have never go head to head in war before hence we cannot conclude that Warsaw pact is weak. The failure of Warsaw Pact is more due to political rather than military reason.

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