Russian spring offensive could lead to war with Nato, according to German defence scenario

Russian spring offensive could lead to war with Nato, according to German defence scenario
Citing a government report, German tabloid Bild reported that Russia could launch an attack against Nato countries that could start as early as July. / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin January 15, 2024

Russia could launch a hybrid war against Nato countries beginning this July, Germany’s Bild reported on January 14, citing one particular scenario discussed in a confidential document by the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr).

The attack would come on Nato's eastern flank, according to the document, which outlines a month-by-month scenario leading to a major armed conflict in Europe and the possible start of WWIII in 2025.

"I would not comment on this Bild report," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "Recently this newspaper has regularly stooped to publishing various fake news items and canards."

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed the report as "last year's horoscope".  

Russia is expected to start a major mobilisation in February to expand the size of its army. So far, apart from a partial mobilisation that started on September 21, the Kremlin has avoided a politically risky full mobilisation. Nevertheless, the defence ministry has plans to increase the size of Russia’s army from the current figure of 1mn men under arms to 1.5mn.

According to the secret document, which was reportedly marked "for official use only", there will be a spring offensive in Ukraine that could be followed by the invasion of the Baltic countries in July, utilising cyberattacks and hybrid warfare tactics.

The report outlined the following potential scenario:

  • February 2024: Russia initiates another mobilisation wave, conscripting an additional 200,000 soldiers.
  • Spring 2024: Strengthened by wavering Western support towards Kyiv, the Kremlin launches a successful spring offensive in Ukraine, pushing the Ukrainian army back.
  • July 2024: A covert, later overt, Russian attack on the West begins, featuring cyberattacks and hybrid warfare, primarily in the Baltic states.
  • October 2024: Russia moves troops and missiles to Kaliningrad, escalating tensions.
  • December 2024: "Border conflicts" and "unrest with numerous casualties" in the Suwalki corridor, along the Polish-Lithuanian border.
  • Post-US elections (November 2024): Russia repeats its 2014 invasion of Ukraine on Nato territory, possibly with Belarusian support.
  • The scenario concludes 30 days after "D-Day," where Nato deploys significant military forces to the eastern flank.

The "Defence Alliance 2023" scenario, as reported by Bild, avoids specific details about the number and movement of Nato troops but envisages the deployment of hundreds of thousands of Nato soldiers in the summer of 2025 before a direct clash between Russian and Nato forces.

The document imagines a peak in tensions in October this year, when Russia moves troops and missiles to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, that is surrounded by Poland.

In December, the scenario also envisages “Grenzkonflikt,” or border conflicts, and "Ausschreitungen mit zahlreichen Toten", or unrest with numerous casualties, in the Suwalki corridor, a strategic route on the Polish-Lithuanian border that Russia is expected to use in any invasion of the Baltic states, with possible Belarusian support.

By January 2025, a special Nato council meeting would report an increasing threat from Russia on Nato members, especially to Poland and the Baltic states. Then, in March, Russia propagandistically reverses the threat narrative, deploying additional troops towards the Baltics and Belarus and preparing for an attack.

The scenario concludes with Nato's "D-Day," ordering the deployment of 300,000 soldiers, including 30,000 Bundeswehr soldiers, to the eastern flank in May 2025.

When questioned about the likelihood of the outlined escalation, the Bundeswehr declined to comment specifically on the scenario; however, it said it was considering various scenarios, even extremely unlikely ones, as a routine part of military training and preparation.

Is Europe ready?

The scenario imagines an attack on Nato members timed to follow the US presidential elections slated for November, during the uncertainties of the leadership transition that would increase US vulnerability.

The document did not address the question of whether European Nato forces could effectively contain or rebuff Russia’s attack.

Earlier military assessments have concluded that Russia could be on the Baltic Sea within 4-5 days were it to launch an attack against the Baltic States but it would take Nato at least two weeks to respond.

The US has sent various “tripwire” forces to the Baltics, designed to raise the alarm if Russia were to attack and to ensure that Nato’s collective defence Article 5 clause is activated as a deterrent.

Berlin is also setting up a permanent German brigade of about 4,800 soldiers in Lithuania on the Russian border and moved the first troops there in January. However, the brigade will only be combat-ready in 2027, defence ministers of both Nato members said in December. The agreement marks Germany's first permanent foreign deployment since WWII.

Recent reports have said that Europe’s armed forces are not ready for a major clash with Russia and their position has been weakened further since they depleted their weapons stockpiles by sending arms to Ukraine.

Germany, in particular, has botched defence reforms and is already running low on ammunition, which would run out after only two days if a full-scale conflict were to break out tomorrow. At the same time, its fleet of the famed Leopard tanks has shrunk to only 400, of which around three-quarters are either inoperable or ineffective and in need of repairs. And Germany's armed forces only have around 20,000 high explosive artillery shells left, magazine Der Spiegel wrote last summer, citing confidential defence ministry papers, after the Bundeswehr sent the majority of its stock to Ukraine.

Britain’s army is in similar shoddy shape and would run out of ammunition on the first day of fighting, according to a report by the Daily Mail last year.

As bne IntelliNews reported last year when Ukraine began running out of ammunition, Western governments have retooled their armed forces to fight against terrorist insurrections and are not prepared for a large-scale classic set-piece confrontation, as is underway in Ukraine. At the same time, they have been very reluctant to invest into new military production facilities to make more guns, bullets and rockets.

The problem has been thrown into stark relief after Brussels promised to supply Ukraine with a million 155mm artillery shells, the workhorse of the current conflict, by March this year, but with the deadline looming it has only managed to manufacture circa 400,000 rounds in nine months.

Should Russia attack Nato it could take at least a year for new facilities needed to re-equip Europe’s armies to come online, according to experts.


A Russian attack on the eastern flank


0124 EURO Russian aggression againt our eastern flank map BILD