US M1A1 tanks moved to Germany to train Ukrainian soldiers on May 13. Photo: US Army

The Kremlin warned that Russia would respond if Europe established a “military Schengen area” after NATO’s logistics command mentioned the idea.

Lieutenant General Alexander Sollfrank, leader of NATO’s logistics command, said on November 23 that he wanted the “military Schengen area” to be established, referring to the area that allows the armed forces to move freely. Similar to the Schengen area in Europe.

General Sollfrank said that administrative procedures are preventing NATO from moving forces in Europe and could cause major delays if a conflict breaks out between the alliance and Russia.

During a press conference on November 24, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would respond if the proposal to establish a “military Schengen area” became a reality. “Europe does not want to pay attention to our concerns,” Mr. Peskov said. “They talk about their security to our detriment.”

“I want to emphasize that NATO is constantly moving its facilities closer to our borders. Russia is not moving close to NATO facilities, it is the alliance that is moving towards us. This causes concern for us and leads to countermeasures to ensure Russia’s security,” Mr. Peskov said.

According to Mr. Peskov, NATO once considered Russia an “enemy”. “Now they consider us a clear enemy. This action is no different from inciting tension in Europe and will lead to consequences,” the Kremlin spokesman warned.

The Schengen area was established in March 1995 and is the world’s largest free travel area consisting of 27 countries, including 23 member countries of the European Union (EU). The region abolished many forms of border control.

The “military Schengen” initiative was raised by some politicians from the Baltic countries in 2017, to allow military convoys to move across Europe with a single license.

Efforts to build a “military Schengen area” became the main task of the EU’s Permanent Structural Cooperation (PESCO) program launched the same year to strengthen defense cooperation.

Schengen countries.  Graphics: AXA

Schengen countries. Graphics: AXA

PESCO delivers projects to expand and strengthen transport infrastructure in Europe, including roads, railways, tunnels, ports, and airports. These projects aim to allow the use of multiple transport routes to transport heavy and large military equipment. European countries also discussed plans to unify regulations on transporting military supplies and dangerous goods, especially explosives.

The initiative is actively supported by NATO, and interactions between the military alliance and the EU have increased significantly since the PESCO program was implemented. However, the program’s progress to date is considered insignificant. The logistics command headed by General Sollfrank, established in September 2021, has not been able to speed up the progress of solving the problem.

“We are running out of time. What we cannot do in peacetime will not be ready in case of crisis or war,” General Sollfrank said on November 23.

Admiral Rob Bauer, Chairman of the NATO Military Affairs Committee, warned “we have a lot of regulations, but what we don’t have is time”. “The Russia- Ukraine war has proven to be a conflict of attrition and it is a confrontation over logistical capabilities,” Mr. Bauer said.