After months of increasing U.S. forces throughout Europe’s Eastern borders in an effort to curb Russian aggression in the region, a new operation was announced on Monday that will see a U.S. led battalion of more than 1,100 soldiers deployed to Poland specifically as a response force aimed at Russian antagonism.
“This is a mission, not a cycle of training events,” U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Steven Gventer, who heads the battlegroup, told a news conference. “The purpose is to deter aggression in the Baltics and in Poland … We are fully ready to be lethal.”
Other battle groups with the same mission will be placed in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, each with forces arriving from NATO allies Britain, Canada, and Germany. Other NATO nations such as France are expected to provide further support for the mission, with all four groups expected to be combat ready as early as June of this year. The four groups will create a combined 4,000 person NATO force, complete with tanks, armored vehicles, air support and the latest in mission-information technology housed within individual command elements. Their continuing mission will be to monitor and defend the European border against any potential Russian incursion.
America’s investment will include more than 900 soldiers, which will be bolstered by 150 British personnel and 120 Romanian soldiers.
In order to effectively safeguard against any Russian advance into the Baltic region, the alliance’s forces will utilize eight small NATO outposts along the border, in which troops from all four battle groups will conduct exercises and prepare for the potential for the outbreak of fighting. In the event said attack ever does occur, the alliance will call on a 40,000-strong group of alliance soldiers stationed throughout the region to bolster the initial defenses provided by the four battle groups.
“We are not the entirety of NATO’s response,” said U.S. Army Major Paul Rothlisberger, part of the U.S.-led battalion to be based in Orzysz, 220 kilometers (137 miles) northeast of Warsaw.
This decision is another of a long slew of tactical moves made by NATO forces in order to reassure NATO nations that were once members of the Soviet Bloc that another Russian annexation such as that seen in Crimea in 2014 will not be tolerated, and any effort to do so will be met with swift military resistance. However, in an effort not to violate a 1997 agreement between Moscow and the United States, utilizing four command posts located within Baltic nations prevents the need to permanently station American troops along the Russian border.
In January, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke directly to the influx of American forces in Poland, calling it a threat to the Russian State.
“We see it as a threat to us. This is an action that threatens our interests, our security; moreover, this is a third nation (apart from Russia and Poland) that is increasing its military presence near our borders in Europe, and it’s not even a European nation.” Peskov told the press.
“One thousand or 10,000 — we’re talking about the increase of military presence. There’s nothing to add.”
Russia has announced plans for large-scale war games along their western border later this year, though no details have emerged regarding the number of troops participating. Chances are good that the presence of a large Russian force along the very border these groups are tasked with overseeing will only serve to increase tensions between Russia and the NATO alliance, further degrading peaceful discourse between nations. As military forces face off from across borders, the potential for armed conflict will be as high as ever, and may mark one of the hottest spots yet in what some have referred to as a second cold war.
Image courtesy of CNN