According to “The New York Times”, the US Army plans to permanently store heavy equipment for elements of an armoured brigade in the countries of Mid-Eastern Europe. Here we mean deployment of equipment for a company-sized unit within the states located in the Baltic region. Tanks and infantry fighting vehicles for battalion sized units may be stored in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary.
Additionally, “Washington Post” released information, according to which General Phillip Breedlove, who is the NATO Commander in Europe, already prepared a proper recommendation. However, this document needs to be authorized by the US Leadership, which may happen before the NATO states’ Ministers of Defence meeting. The latter event is scheduled to take place on 24th – 25th June this year.
Tomasz Siemoniak, Polish Minister of Defence, confirmed the fact that negotiations, involving the US Secretary of Defence, were carried out. These talks were related to potential deployment of the heavy US Army equipment in Poland. Siemoniak stated that the process is being continued. In his statement, quoted by the Polish Press Agency, he stated thatm according to the information obtained from the Americans, the decision is to be made soon.
In the light of the Ukrainian crisis, the US Armed Forces decided to deploy equipment for a full armoured brigade combat group in Europe. Earlier on, equipment for a battalion-sized unit, had been stored in Germany. According to the basic assumption, this equipment was to be used by some elements of a brigade which is permanently stationed in the US, but acting under the jurisdiction of the European Command during the given year. This year, the role defined above is taken by the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division.
US Army Commander in Europe, General Ben Hodges, claimed in his interview for the Defense News outlet, that deployment of the individual components of the equipment is to be spread all around the European locations, including Poland, the Baltic states (probably company-sized units) and in Romania and Bulgaria. Some vehicles were to remain in Germany, since Germany is the place where a relevant part of the training infrastructure utilized by NATO and the US Army is located.
Most probably, the Americans decided to deploy the equipment for a brigade, including the M1A2 Abrams tanks, Bradley IFV’s or M109 Howitzers, spreading it around several locations within the European states. As the basic assumption suggests, this would make it possible to operate in the Mid-Eastern European region, both within the scope of potential training, as well as within the scope of counteracting against potential threats that may emerge for the allies.
Should the Americans decide to permanently deploy heavy equipment in Poland or in the Baltic states, this would also bear some significance from a political point of view. Up until now, NATO refrained from similar activities, due to the memorandum signed with Russia back in 1997. According to that document, NATO was to resign from deploying permanent, large detachments within the territory of the new member states. NATO’s reserved stance was maintained in the current predictable security environment, even though Moscow, unambiguously, breached the conditions of the agreement by annexing Crimea and carrying out military activities in the eastern part of Ukraine.
On the other hand though, the equipment which is to be stationed within the Mid-Eastern European States is to be provided for the units that are not larger than a battalion – and these are the units with a limited operational significance, especially in the light of provisions, according to which the US would refrain from permanent deployment of “significant” quantity of force in the region. The soldiers would be present within the area only on a periodic basis. Currently the Americans do not have any armoured brigade, that could potentially be permanently stationed in Europe, at their disposal.
Potential US decision, the aim of which would be to deploy equipment for an armoured brigade within the area of Poland, would constitute a significant reinforcement of the NATO defensive capabilities in the Mid-Eastern European region. However, such action shall not be viewed as a universal solution adopted in the light of the existing security problems. More measures shall be utilized in parallel, in order to bolster the capabilities of the conventional armed forces, within the territories of the member states located in the area of the Mid-Eastern Europe. Similar actions should be adopted by the developed countries of the Western Europe.
This would require some tough political decisions to be made, both within the scope of increasing the defence spending, which would mean that the implemented cuts must be revoked, as well as within the scope of developing the procedures related to the quick reaction forces. The civil authorities should also be authorized to utilize the possibilities offered by the quick reaction elements. Some opinion-makers show that, even if raising the level of readiness of the forces that NATO has at its disposal (such as the QRF unit that takes part in the Noble Jump exercise) is being realized, it is absolutely required to have some realistic, political decision-making schemes at hand, in order to properly utilize the capabilities offered by the QRF – particularly when it comes to the countries of the Western Europe.