Written by Piero Messina
NATO will strengthen its military contingent in Eastern Europe. One hundred thousand soldiers of the US army plus another forty thousand soldiers from the member countries of the Alliance will be deployed in Europe, mostly in the eastern air close to the crisis area between Ukraine and Russia. The go-ahead for the deployment of the contingent will be given on March 24 in Brussels at the extraordinary meeting of the Council of Europe and NATO. The two summits are expected to be attended by the US president, Joe Biden.
It will not be a temporary measure. The secretary of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, made it clear during a press conference: We are reinforcing our collective defense. Hundreds of thousands of troops on heightened alert. One hundred thousand US troops in Europe. And 40,000 troops under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of our Alliance, supported by naval and air forces. we will also not only address the immediate consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but we will also address the more long term consequences, the long term adaptation of our Alliance “.
Long term adaptation is the key to understanding what NATO is planning. The goal is simple, to transform the Kremlin’s special military operation into a new Afghanistan. The economic support that Washington has offered to the Kiev regime is also significant. President Zelensky will receive military aid worth over a billion dollars – only from the States. Biden had already authorized $ 200 million in aid for additional military equipment to Ukraine last week. After Zelensky’s speech by videoconference to the US Congress, the White House has announced that another 800 million dollars will be added. To these sums must be added the military supplies arrived at the Ukrainian border by the other NATO member countries. The supply of weapons and ammunition is very often disguised as sending humanitarian aid.
The architrave of the European defense system is then the NATO Response Force, with 40,000 strong personnel that can be mobilized quickly. A multinational contingent made up of land, air, sea and special forces, the NATO Response Force has its spearhead in the 5,000 troops of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which can be operational within 72 hours.
Over the years, the presence of the alliance has also increased in the Black Sea, where the Sea Breeze exercise has been held every year since 1997, involving, in addition to NATO, the military navies of Ukraine and Georgia. The amount of ships and personnel deployed in Sea Breeze has steadily increased over time, to include 5,000 soldiers, 32 boats, 40 aircraft and over 30 countries last year. The Sixth Fleet of the United States often participates in these maneuvers, the protagonist of patrolling operations in the Black Sea, which have become more frequent in recent years.
The deployment in the various European countries of the alliance
Estonia: The Battlegroup Estonia Battlegroup, based in Tapa, consists of approximately 830 troops under British command. It has an armored infantry battalion equipped with tanks and armored fighting vehicles, artillery, air defense systems and intelligence and surveillance units.
Latvia: The Battlegroup Latvia tactical group, based in Adazi, is led by Canada, totaling 1,525 troops from 10 different nations. After the Canadian one (527 effective with a mechanized infantry company), the most consistent contingents are the Spanish one (343 effective with a mechanized infantry company with tanks and armored vehicles) and the Italian one (200 effective with a heavy infantry company with tanks and armored vehicles).
Lithuania: The Battlegroup Lithuania battlegroup, based in Rukla, is led by Germany, which supplies about half of the 1,249 military personnel employed and an armored company that includes a mechanized infantry platoon.
Among the other six nations that make up the group stand out the Netherlands (270 effective with a mechanized infantry company) and Belgium (199 effective with a mechanized infantry company with anti-tank systems). the integration of an air defense unit of the Czech Republic is underway, which is already participating with a platoon trained in the fight against electronic guerrilla warfare.
Poland: The Battlegroup Poland tactical group is US-led, based in Orzysz and consists of 1010 troops, including 620 Americans gathered in an armored cavalry squadron, 140 British, 120 Romanians with an anti-aircraft defense battery and 80 Croats with a missile battery.
In the Baltics and Poland, NATO also has an air patrol mission under the supervision of the American base in Ramstein, Germany. The Baltic is also one of the operational areas of one of the four permanent naval commands that patrol international waters or those of allied countries.
Romania and Bulgaria: Bucharest hosts a multinational ground force employing up to 4,000 troops and to which France has recently offered to contribute additional personnel. American troops are stationed on separate bases in Romania and Bulgaria. Alliance countries often send airplanes to help patrol the skies of the two countries.
France leads the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force: 5,000 ground, air and sea troops that can be fully operational within 72 hours. The contingent, the first of the NATO Response Force to be mobilized in the event of a crisis, is mostly made up of French and German soldiers but has expanded this year to include contributions from Spain, Portugal and Poland.
US troops in the rest of Europe: The United States has 74,000 military personnel stationed in Europe, although not all are on active duty. Germany hosts about 36,000, Italy 12,000, Great Britain 9,000, Spain 3,000 and Turkey 1,600. Another 4,500 troops are deployed in rotation in Poland but are not permanently deployed. Most US troops in Europe can be mobilized as NATO troops.
Balkans: About 3,500 troops operate in Kosovo as part of the NATO peacekeeping mission. The countries of the alliance also watch over the skies of the smaller nations of the area: the Slovenian airspace is protected by Italy and Hungary, that of Albania and Montenegro by Greece and Italy and that of North Macedonia by Italy alone.
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