- In total, 37,000 soldiers from 19 countries will take part in the maneuvers.
- Some representatives of the factions in the Bundestag criticized the upcoming exercises.
- NATO has denied that the Defender 2020 exercises are directed against the Russian Federation.
The NATO Defender 2020 maneuvers, due to begin in February, will become the alliance’s largest exercises in 25 years. Their goal is to work out the prompt deployment of American troops to Poland and the Baltic countries. As part of the exercises, up to 20,000 US soldiers and officers, as well as 13,000 units of military equipment, will be delivered to Europe by sea and air.
In total, about 37,000 soldiers from 19 countries will be involved in the maneuvers. The exercises will last about five months, then the US military will return to their homeland. While Poland will become the main territory for the movement of troops, Germany will serve as the logistics center and the main transit country.
Earlier, the Deputy Commander of the US Armed Forces in Europe, General Andrew Rawling, promised that the transfer of troops would have minimal impact on the life of the population of Germany, as it would take place mainly at night. As part of the Defender 2020 exercises, Germany will become a transit center for US troops.
Meanwhile, some representatives of the factions in the Bundestag criticized the upcoming exercises. The Left Party called them a new planned provocation against Russia, and believe they could lead to retaliatory steps by Moscow. “The concepts of de-escalation, peace, and disarmament no longer exist in the NATO vocabulary,” said Alexander Neu, deputy of the Bundestag from the Left Party faction.
In turn, NATO has denied that the Defender 2020 exercises are directed against the Russian Federation. “Defender Europe is not directed against any particular country,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said. “This defensive exercise demonstrates the ability to rapidly move a large force from the United States to Europe to help protect other NATO allies if needed,” he said.
Despite the alliance’s leadership statements, it is obvious that the decision to conduct such exercises, in any case, is due to the close proximity of Poland and the Baltic countries— the eastern flank of NATO— to Russia. According to Claudia Major, an analyst with the Berlin Science and Politics Foundation (SWP), the situation for NATO changed dramatically in 2014, after the outbreak of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
This forced NATO to change its strategy. So, the alliance decided to find out whether roads, bridges, and railways in the EU are suitable for transporting tanks and other heavy military equipment. It turned out that this is not always possible to do. The secret NATO report states that the alliance will not be able to react quickly enough in the event of an unexpected Russian attack on Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia, and the transfer of troops and military equipment from Central and Western Europe to the Baltic will take too much time.
For example, during the Soviet era, attention was paid only to communications from west to east, so in the Baltic countries, there are no transport routes that allow the transfer of military equipment from south to north. The transportation of heavy machinery is also complicated by the different track gauges in the Baltic countries and in Western European countries.