Transforming the Armed Forces of Central and East Europe

By Simon, Jeffrey | Strategic Forum, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Transforming the Armed Forces of Central and East Europe


Simon, Jeffrey, Strategic Forum


Key Points

The transformation of Central and East European (CEE) armed forces into modern contributors to Euro-Atlantic security during the next decade will be more difficult than in the last, because euphoria over joining the West is dissipating, and attention is turning to problems of reform.

CEE governments have been unable to provide long-term plans and to guarantee resources to build military capabilities. Plans still must be developed, especially in Slovakia and Slovenia, and reliable projections of resources are sorely needed in Romania.

Downsizing and restructuring militaries and integrating general staffs within ministries of defense can create friction in civil-military relations; the United States could help mitigate such problems through retraining aimed at alternate careers and merit-based career development programs.

In moving to all-volunteer forces, CEE partners will lose an instrument for shaping the citizens of young democracies (such as Lithuania) and manpower pools from which to recruit extended-service volunteers (like Germany). NATO allies could provide partner programs focused on conscription to foster civic virtues and help define training for specific military roles and missions.

Confusion prevails over the appropriate length of conscription for each CEE country. However, terms of 6 or 7 months can only prepare reserve forces and are not adequate to meet operational requirements.

**********

As Central and East European (CEE) armed forces are reduced and restructured over the next decade, human and financial resources will be stretched and stressed, in some cases beyond capacity. CEE governments and societies will likely experience civil-military tension. Due to resource shortages, CEE Membership Action Plan (MAP) partners, who aspire to NATO membership, will be tempted to exaggerate defense planning and enlarge forces to accommodate their political objective of Euro- Atlantic integration.

The accompanying chart (see page 3) illustrates trends in CEE defense establishments and budgets discussed below.

New NATO Members

The Czech Republic had a defense establishment of 78,580 in January 1999, only 60 percent of its strength in January 1993. The government approved the security strategy of the Czech Republic in February 1999 and the military strategy in March 1999. Defense was allocated 1.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1999 and 2.0 percent in 2000. The "Concept for Development of Forces 2003-2008" establishes guidelines for future development, under which the military will be cut roughly 25 percent by 2004. In terms of operational posture, the armed forces are divided into immediate reaction forces, rapid reaction forces, and main defense forces, with readiness times of 10, 20, and 30 days, respectively.

The ratios among officers, warrant officers, and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) will alter significantly. The officer corps will decrease, while warrant officers and NCOs in extended active service will increase. The number of 12-month conscripts will decline to 23,000 in 2000, 21,000 in 2004, and 20,000 in 2009, by which time 85-90 percent of conscripts will provide support services. The Czech Republic can meet its force goals. The main problem it faces is how to develop warrant officers and recruit extended-service NCOs. To date, programs to do this have failed.

Hungary had a defense establishment of 60,000 in January 1999, less than 40 percent of the strength a decade earlier. Hungarian demographics severely limit the number of conscripts available for military service; the cohort of draft-age males declines from 90,000 in 1998 to 50,000 in 2003. This decline is aggravated by a 9-month conscription term, which the government would like to reduce to 6 months.

Though Hungary approved its "Principles of Security and Defense Policy" in December 1998, its defense plans must now be reconsidered, because the government is unwilling to provide adequate resources and cannot meet NATO target goals. …

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