“Who are we? Airborne! Who are we? Airborne! How far do we go? All the way!”

This is the sound of Canadian paratroopers jumping from a perfectly good flying aircraft at 1,000 feet AGL. Approximately 50 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light infantry and support staff participated in Exercise Orzel Alert. The US Army’s 173rd Infantry Combat Brigade Combat Team also sent about 100 jumpers. Poland hosted the exercise with the participation of the Polish 6th Airborne Brigade.

Ex. Orzel Alert was held between May 5 and May 9 in Poland, providing opportunities for the three countries’ airborne forces to boost their cooperation at the battalion level and below.

With the recent events in Ukraine, NATO countries are expanding their presence in Eastern Europe’s member countries. Canada has been one of the leading countries in the imposition of severe sanctions against Russia, and is extending their military presence both in Poland and in the Black Sea.

But could exercises like Orzel Alert be the awakening of a newer generation of soldiers to be stationed in Eastern Europe? I believe so!

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NATO was created to defend member countries against external threats. Whether it was the Soviets during the Cold War or the unconventional warfare we’ve been taking part in for the last 12 years in both Afghanistan and Iraq, member countries should always keep in mind that their first priority is to ensure the stability and safety of all the other members.

US Army Paratroopers receiving Canadian Jump Wings.
US Army Paratroopers receiving Canadian Jump Wings.

Of course, the United States has been the largest contributor to NATO by far, but they should not be the only ones in charge of protecting the remaining countries. A good example is Canada. Canada has sent more than 40,000 troops to Afghanistan in a little over 12 years. They also sent CF-18s to participate in the interdiction mission in Libya, and are now involved in the support of Ukraine.

NATO QRF

NATO should establish a permanent multinational Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to respond to events like the one in Ukraine – a force that could be stationed as close as possible to the current threats while still being in their own “backyard.”

Poland would be one of the best places to host a NATO QRF, keeping it close to the menace (read: Russia) and ready to intervene quickly and efficiently. An airborne/air mobile division would be one of the best possible forces that NATO could offer in the case of any problems.

The speed and efficiency of airborne troops would offer a quick response and give time to NATO countries to set up a stronger ground element, supported by artillery, armoured and close-air support. A great example was the airborne force that dropped on top of German positions during WWII. While the main effort was preparing to invade, airborne troops were tasked to facilitate the actions of that force by disrupting and destroying enemy positions.

The command element should change on a yearly basis, offering every country the possibility to gain good leadership and a better view of what NATO is all about.

As I said earlier, this force would need the support of ALL member countries. Nowadays, the US has been providing more than 70% of the total NATO budget. This is really unacceptable! I cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong alliance, where everyone is actively participating.

Multinational Training

Multinational training is one of the most important aspects of having a strong alliance. Exercise Orzel Alert is one of the best examples. Because of a crisis that has repercussions at the international level, NATO is hosting their training as close as possible to the crisis. This both reassures member countries that are in close proximity and trains the troops in a nearby environment.

Other training exercises are happening in countries that are extending invitations to help others gain more experience in their particular environment. Climate can be a big thing for soldiers who are used to living more south or north. Canada and Poland have been great training partners during the last few years. I had the opportunity to work with Polish Pathfinders in Northern Quebec 3 years ago. They learned valuable lessons that they were able to pass on to their soldiers.

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We also learned a great deal when we were invited to Ex. Bold Alligator 2012 with 2/2 Marines. Most of us never had the chance to be onboard a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) and it proved to be a great experience, as Canada is looking into forming a small amphibious-capable force in the near future.

A member of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, watches range instructions with his polish counterparts during Exercise ORZEL ALERT near Zagan, Poland on May 7, 2014.
A member of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, watches range instructions with his Polish counterparts during Exercise ORZEL ALERT near Żagań, Poland on May 7, 2014.

Russia, The Old Enemy Resurfacing

In my opinion, Russia was always a bigger threat than some Arabs states. Since Putin took over the country, literally, his vision was the restoration of the good old Soviet Union.

The annexation of Crimea had been foreseen by a lot of specialists and is, I believe, the trigger of Cold War 2.0. By using old proxy war tactics, Russia is slowly grabbing small parts of Ukraine. We all know the first Cold War was fought through these proxy wars.

Many people tend to forget that Russia is also modernizing their Armed Forces and reopening old airfields and deep water ports in the Arctic. The focus might be on Ukraine nowadays, but the Arctic is going to be one of the main future conflicts on the international level.

I am planning on writing a more complete analysis on the future of Russia real soon, I will include more detail about them in it.

In conclusion, whether the future menaces come from Russia or any other country, NATO has to be ready to intervene as soon as possible. Many people will argue that situations like the one in Ukraine are not our concern. However, when you look at the bigger picture, you begin to understand that we, as the largest and most powerful alliance in the history of mankind, have a responsibility towards the other member countries, and it is also our job to keep the world stable.