According to US military experts, NATO officials are on the verge of closing a deal with the US to station one US combat battalion alongside three allied battalions on Europe?s eastern flank. This is to be done as an additional measure to deter any future Russian moves. The plan will bolster military presence in Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Since the NATO officials are preparing for a summit in Warsaw in July, this is one of the issues that will be discussed.
Note that the US military has been conducting joints exercises with NATO military units in Europe. This is being done to ensure that Europe is safe from Russian aggression such as the one seen in 2014 in Ukraine.
NATO has undertaken small-scale airborne operations involving several countries as a response to Russia?s deployment of troops in Ukraine. Note that May 27, the Swift Response 16, Program was initiated which will be running till June 26 of this year. It will be running in Poland and Germany and will have more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States.
It should be noted here that Swift Response will be responsible to demonstrate the ability of the allies to respond to an aggressive scenario from the opposite side. A battalion of 1st grade and 82nd Airborne Division will be able to make a 10-hour transatlantic flight from Fort Bragg into Torun, Poland, which is an exercise area.
Moreover, the Pentagon has already notified that it will be deploying an armored brigade combat team to Eastern Europe early next year. Note that this plan is a calling for the constant presence of a third party brigade in Europe. Currently, there are two permanently stationed brigades in Europe; an airborne brigade and a Stryker brigade. Not just these three combat brigades, the US has also agreed to provide a battalion which will be stationed on the eastern flank, as stated by Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which is a think tank in Washington, DC.
Conley added, ?I think the U.S. is making a commitment to a more sizeable, more credible deterrent.?
She further added, ?We have pretty strong commitment. A NATO member has to come forward with one more battalion. I think we are there, but clearly this exercise demonstrates that NATO contributors are stretched.”
One of the experts believe that Russia will probably view this alliance as a threat but they are not sure as to how Russia will react.
According to Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington DC Think Tank, ?They will probably be highly critical and may intensify some of their provocative activities, such as aggressive maneuvers in the Baltic and Black Sea areas and around NATO airspace more broadly.?
He added, ?It is unlikely that the Russians will do something highly dramatic, however. Moscow will likely understand that such a modest deployment of what appears to be relatively light forces does not pose a material new threat to it.?