According to the information which has been provided to Defence24.pl by the spokesperson of the Polish Ministry of Defence, Col. Jacek Sońta, throughout 2015 Poland will be a theatre for multi-national Saber Strike and Baltops exercises, and the allies will be additionally involved in the Dragon exercise, which is being organized by the Polish Army’s 11th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. What is more, the German authorities have declared, that a Bundeswehr’s armoured element may be sent to take part in that event.
Saber Strike and Baltops – multi-national NATO exercises within the Baltic’s area
Multi-national Saber Strike and Baltops exercises are scheduled to take place in June 2015. The former exercise is being organized by the joint training command of the US Army Europe and it will happen within the territory of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Col. Sońta stressed the fact that within the Polish ranges, besides the Polish soldiers, also the British, US, French, German forces will be involved in the exercise. The Polish part of the event will take place within the Drawsko Pomorskie range.
Scope of the training is to be arranged in detail at the end of February. Sabre Strike 2014 exercise, which has been organized mainly within the territories of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, involved more than 4500 soldiers, including a battalion combat group of the Danish Armed Forces, small elements of the US Army equipped with Bradley and Stryker infantry fighting vehicles, and, finally, 150 representatives of the Polish Army. All of them have been supported by the USAF F-16 fighters and B-52 bomber. Last year’s edition of the Saber Strike exercise has been the most spectacular one up until now. This series of exercises has been organized regularly since 2011. Up until now the event has been focused mainly on the operations within the Baltic states, but back in 2014 it also did involve, among other ones, a component of Canadian forces.
Naval Baltops operation is also planned to happen next year. This exercise is organized as a part of NATO Partnership for Peace. The event will involve ships and vessels belonging to the navies of Poland, USA, UK, Germany, Nordic and Baltic states. Similarly as it is to happen in case of the Saber Strike exercise, all of the details will be arranged at the end of February, after a planning conference.
Dragon – Multinational Exercise of the Black Division
Col. Jacek Sońta emphasized the importance of the Dragon exercise, saying that they are to be one of the largest multi-national exercises next year. The event is planned to happen in September-October, and it is being organized by the General Command of the Armed Forces. In its basic assumption, the exercise is going to be a training event for the Polish 11th Armoured Cavalry division (unofficially nicknamed "Black Division"), widely involving other units of all of the armed services. The Polish authorities did invite the allies to also take part in the event.
No detailed arrangements regarding the degree involvement of the NATO forces have been made so far, however most probably the Dragon exercise will yet again involve British forces, probably a mechanized battalion. 1000 soldiers, along with all the vehicles needed, which are to be deployed to Poland, as it has been just recently declared by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. It was last year when Black Eagle exercise took place, and this event involved a British Armoured Battalion Battle Group as well.
French and German Soldiers within the Polish Ranges
Col. Sońta did confirm the fact that exercise which would involve a French armoured unit is also being planned, in accordance with the declaration made by minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Detailed decisions are to be made after the initial reconnaissance, which is planned to happen in January. The French soldiers will also be involved in the Saber Strike exercise, as described above.
Germany has declared that it will deploy an armoured element, with an intention of carrying our a joint training in the summer season this year. Additionally the German forces will also be involved in the Saber Strike exercise and command-staff computer-enhanced Compact Eagle exercise, which is being planned by the command of the Multinational Corps North-east. During the last year’s NATO summit which took place in Wales, it has been decided that combat readiness of the Corps needs to be raised. In August last year, Angela Merkel has declared that Federal Republic of Germany will get involved in the NATO operations which are directly tied to the Ukrainian crisis. At the end of October, Ministers of Defence of Germany and Poland have signed a memorandum regarding enhancement of scope of cooperation, including cooperation of the land forces.
Moreover, soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces will be involved in training events, which are being planned and organized beyond the Polish borders. Company-sized element will participate in the Saber Junction exercise which is scheduled to take place in Germany. What is more, several hundred soldiers, mainly ones from the 4th Chemical Regiment, will be involved in the NATO Response Force 2016 certification exercise, which is being organized under a name “Trident Juncture”. The exercise is to happen in Spain, and it may involve more than 25 000 soldiers, also within the territories of Italy and Portugal.
NATO is indeed going to expand the scope within which multinational exercises happening in Poland, are organized, comparing that scope with the last year. French and German forces will be involved in these events within a larger extent too. Last year these countries did not participate e.g. in the Saber Strike exercise. This means that Paris and Berlin, quite clearly, want to enhance the credibility of the NATO collective defence system.
However, we should remember that, in order to permanently reinforce the NATO’s eastern flank, augmenting the presence of the NATO forces in Mid-Eastern Europe may be required. Moreover, stopping the budget cuts and partial reversal of process of cuts in the defence budgets, both when it comes to Europe, as well as to the USA, should be considered. Actions listed above require the leaders to make difficult political decisions – it is not clear whether they would be ultimately implemented, considering e.g. the bad shape of the USA public budget. The Western European countries are also not in the best financial condition. Another possibility is that the political sphere may become destabilized, as radical political parties may enter the arena and win the fight for power – and some of these parties may present a stance against NATO membership, or would like to introduce even more cuts, when it comes to the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, within that scope, the Central and Eastern European policy markers do not have much to say.