The NATO Multinational Corps Northeast posted several pictures today documenting the American M1A2 Main Battle Tanks that make up the meat of offensive ground forces firepower for the Exercises DEFENDER Europe 22 and Swift Response 22. Multinational Corps Northeast was formed on 18 September 1999 at Szczecin, Poland, which became its headquarters. It evolved from what was for many years the only multinational corps in NATO, Allied Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland (LANDJUT) (in its turn, a part of Allied Forces Northern Europe). The most notable standing unit that comprises the force is the Lithuanian Mechanized Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf which constitutes the core fighting unit of the Lithuanian Ground Forces and Lithuania’s contribution to NATO. One of the key objectives of the Multinational Corps Northeast is to secure the Suwalki Gap between Poland and Lithuania. Both the Russian Federation and NATO view this key piece of terrain as critical. If the Russian Federation can seize it then mainland Russia will have a secure land route to the Kaliningrad Enclave. However, if NATO seizes it, then the Baltic States will have a land bridge to the rest of NATO. The gap is defined by relatively flat and open terrain, dotted with small towns which makes excellent ground for mechanized infantry and armored maneuvers.
According to the United States Army: DEFENDER-Europe is an annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, a multinational, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO, and partner militaries. This year’s exercise focuses on building operational readiness and interoperability with a greater number of NATO allies and partners over a wider area of operations.
The Exercise is expected to go on until the end of May, but here is the breakdown of events so far, according to the U.S. Army:
March: Equipment and personnel from the United States began moving to Europe for
May: The DEFENDER-Europe Live Exercise takes place in Eastern Europe and will
demonstrate U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s ability to aggregate US-based combat power quickly in Eastern Europe, increase the lethality of the NATO alliance through long-distance fires, build unit readiness in a complex joint, multinational environment and leverage host nation capabilities to increase the command’s operational reach.
May: Army Prepositioned Stocks will be drawn from sites in Belgium, Germany and the
Netherlands; then moved to various training areas via convoy, rail, line haul or barge. This phase of the exercise will demonstrate the U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s ability to maintain a deterrent posture in northern Europe while concurrently shifting forces to other areas of the theater.
May: The bulk of activities will occur with training events across more than 9 countries and
encompassing several linked and associated exercises. Linked exercises share coordinated
mission command, mutual sustainment, and a common mission partner environment.
-Flaming Thunder: A Lithuanian-led live-fire exercise focused on fires and
interoperability of artillery systems.
-Slovak Shield: A Slovakian field training exercise focused on land operations.
-Summer Shield: A Latvian-led field training exercise focused on land operations.
DEFENDER Europe is running simultaneously with Exercise Swift Response which is an airborne-centric exercise focusing on the deployment of quick-reaction troops to the Baltics, High North, and the Balkans. Approximately 9,000 service members from 17 Allied and partner nations will participate in the exercise, including approximately 2,700 U.S. Soldiers and Airmen.
The continuation of these exercises, in the midst of escalating tensions between NATO and the Russian Federation over the invasion of Ukraine, and now the accession of Sweden and Finland into the alliance does two things: provides a meaty NATO response force to the equation, and also presents an opportunity for miscalculations which could result in an escalation of the conflict. These exercises are supposed to go until the end of May, with Finland and Sweden supposedly applying for NATO membership as early as Monday and Wednesday. The presence of these American and NATO troops in the region will be something to watch over the next three weeks, the Russians definitely are.