Tuesday, June 7, 2016

US Plans to Commit Combat Troops to NATO's Eastern Flank

NATO officials are close to securing a deal that would station one U.S. combat battalion along with three allied battalions on Europe's eastern flank as an additional deterrent to future Russian aggression, according to military experts.
The plan to bolster military presence in Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania comes as NATO officials are preparing for the a summit in Warsaw set for July 8-9.
The U.S. military for months has been conducting joint exercises with other NATO military units in Europe to reassure allies and deter Russia from attempting future operations similar to its incursion into Ukraine in 2014.
So far NATO's military response to Russia deploying thousands of troops into Ukraine has come in the form of small-scale airborne operations involving several countries.
Swift Response 16, which began May 27 and is scheduled to run through June 26 in Poland and Germany, will include more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen from the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Swift Response will demonstrate the allies' ability to respond to a crisis scenario from staging bases in both Europe and the U.S. within 18 hours of notification.
A battalion of 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division will make a 10-hour transatlantic flight -- including en-route refueling, mission planning and parachute rigging -- from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to parachute into the exercise area near Torun, Poland.
The Pentagon also recently announced it plans to deploy an armored brigade combat team to Eastern Europe next February. That plan essentially calls for the constant presence of a third brigade in Europe. Two are already permanently stationed in Europe -- a Stryker brigade and an airborne brigade. And now a brigade will rotate in and out on a continual basis, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to these three combat brigades, the United States has agreed to commit one battalion to be stationed on the eastern flank, according to Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
"I think the U.S. is making a commitment to a more sizeable, more credible deterrent," Conley said.  more