Julian E. Barnes, The Wall Street Journal, 18.09.2016
MULTINATIONAL FORCE OF UP TO 4,000 PERSONNEL AIMED AT DETERRING RUSSIAN AGGRESSION IN THE REGION
The new allied deterrent force for the Baltic region will be in place by May 2017, with some units arriving earlier, the head of the Western alliance’s military committee said Sunday.
Military leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, gathering in Split, Croatia, this weekend, discussed the deployment of the force of up to 4,000 personnel, its rules of engagement, and its command and control.
Czech Army Gen. Petr Pavel, who leads the NATO military committee, said the battle groups will be arriving at different times in the first half of 2017. The U.S. force, of about 1,000 soldiers, will come from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment based in Vilseck, Germany, and is due to arrive in Poland by April, U.S. officials said.
In its July summit in Warsaw, NATO approved a new multinational force to be stationed in Poland and the Baltic states, aimed at deterring Russian aggression in the region. Eastern European allies have been worried about the possibility of a rising threat from Russia since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
In Croatia, the NATO chiefs of defense — including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford — discussed the rules of engagement the force would operate under. The rules will differ by each country, reflecting differences in the situation and agreements with the host nations.
While Gen. Pavel wouldn't outline the rules, he said they would be altered from those the current international forces in the region are operating under, designed to allow the new NATO forces to move from a peacetime footing to a crisis situation rapidly.
“With these four battle groups, we are not talking about exclusively about a training presence,” he said. “This force is to serve as a deterrent and if necessary as a fighting force. The rules will be different.”
Some of the troops participating in the deterrent force — both from the NATO contributing countries and the host nations — have been training at the U.S. Army facility in Grafenwoehr, Germany. Forces have been dusting off Cold War-era knowledge about defenses, as well as studying the electronic warfare techniques used by Russian-backed forces in Ukraine.
NATO military leaders will present proposals for the command of the new units at a gathering of alliance defense ministers in October, Gen. Pavel said.
Gen. Pavel said the new NATO force in the Baltic is likely to be overseen by a Polish division headquarters that is supplemented by international officers. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top NATO commander, will have ultimate control of the new NATO force.
In addition to the U.S. battalion in Poland, Germany will send forces to Lithuania, Canada will send troops to Latvia and the British will have a battle group in Estonia. Other nations, including Norway, Denmark and France are supplementing those forces.
“There are many strands of work,” Gen. Pavel said. “We are trying to come up with the big picture so we are assured the measures we are taking are well coordinated, mutually supportive and we are not working in different directions.”