Defense alliance: NATO eastern flank: US military command for permanent bases

In response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, NATO is arming itself massively in the east. The US military chief of staff advocates a permanent presence of US soldiers in Eastern Europe.

As a result of the Russian war of aggression in the Ukraine the leadership of the US military has spoken out in favor of establishing permanent US bases in the Eastern European NATO states.

He would advise setting up permanent bases that could then be used by temporarily deployed US soldiers, Chief of Staff Mark Milley said in the US Congress. This gives you the advantages of a permanent military presence without certain disadvantages such as the need for families to move, their accommodation and the need for schools.

Permanent presence should act as a deterrent

The Eastern European partners, including the Baltic states, Poland or Romania, are “very, very willing” to build and pay for the bases for US troops, Milley said in a defense budget hearing for the coming fiscal year. With this one can achieve the deterrent “effect” of a permanent presence, but the soldiers themselves do not have to be sent for “two or three years”, but can be replaced after shorter deployments, Milley told the MPs.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin added before the House Armed Services Committee that Then be in process to examine how the “security architecture in the region will change in the foreseeable future”. If NATO decides to change its presence in Eastern Europe, then the US military would “certainly be a part of it,” he said. It can be assumed that this will be an issue at the NATO summit in June. The US government’s goal is to address the concerns of its eastern partners, particularly those in the Baltics, Austin said.

New troops on the eastern flank

NATO had previously confirmed the readiness for deployment of new troops on the eastern flank. As a spokeswoman for the military alliance told the German Press Agency, the four new multinational battlegroups in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia reached the first stage of operational readiness. Its construction was only announced a few weeks ago.

NATO initially did not comment on the details. According to the Headquarters Allied Forces in Europe (Shape), however, the battle group in Slovakia alone consists of 2,100 soldiers, who are from the Czech Republic, Germany, the NetherlandsPoland, Slovenia and the USA be asked. In Hungary there are 800 soldiers from Croatia, the USA and the host country and in Bulgaria 900 soldiers from the USA and the host country. In Romania, the battle group is currently formed by soldiers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The NATO military did not provide any information on the size. In a NATO graphic from March 21, the number of 3,300 soldiers stationed in Romania was last mentioned. However, it also includes troops that are not part of the NATO battle group.

Battlegroups significantly strengthened

The new battlegroups are intended to further increase deterrence and defense capabilities in light of the Russian war against Ukraine. So far, NATO has only permanently stationed multinational units in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and in Poland. Normally, these battlegroups are about 1000 to 1200 soldiers strong, but they have recently been significantly strengthened because of the Ukraine war.

“We now have 40,000 soldiers under direct NATO command in the eastern part of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday. In addition, there would be hundreds of thousands of troops on increased alert and hundreds of ships and planes.

Involved in deterring Russia are also numerous German soldiers. Germany is currently leading a battle group in Lithuania. Air force soldiers with the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system, who are now part of the Battlegroup, were also deployed to Slovakia in March.

Brigades in the Eastern Alliance area?

According to the Allied Forces Headquarters, all battlegroups are to achieve the so-called Full Operational Capability in the course of this year after the so-called Initial Operational Capability and thus be able to meet all the requirements. In Hungary, according to plans, this will be the case by the end of this month.

However, it is still unclear what the long-term NATO presence on the eastern flank should look like. One option is to station brigades in the eastern alliance area for the first time. They could each be around 5,000 soldiers strong and be supplemented, for example, by elements of the air and sea forces or special forces.

Russia strictly rejects the permanent stationing of NATO combat troops in the Eastern European countries, citing an agreement from the 1990s. Since the beginning of this year, however, US forces have already significantly expanded their military presence in the eastern NATO states because of the Ukraine conflict – pro forma, however, these are mainly temporary operations, not permanent deployments.