It is no secret that Russia is the most significant and direct threat to Allied security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. In order to respond swiftly to the evolving challenges and changes in the security environment along NATO's borders and further afield,Allied Heads of State and Government agreed at the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw to establish NATO’s forward presencein the northeast and southeast of the Alliance due toRussia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
This decision led to the creation of four new multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. These battle groups, led by framework nations the United Kingdom, Canada, Germanyand the United States, respectively, work together with their host nation defence forces to deter aggression and demonstrate the Alliance's commitment to the security and defence of its member countries.
Photo by German-Netherlands Corps (1GNC) Facebook page
In 2022, as a direct result of Russia’s full-scale, unprovoked, and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, there is no doubt that NATO is prepared to defend every inch of Allied territory.The biggest military conflict in Europe since World War II has upended many aspects of European security and forced NATO to recognize the crucial requirement for enhanced collective defence.
In response to Russia’s actions, NATO has increased its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance by improving its readiness to protect and defend all Allies. NATO created an additional four battlegroups in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia as part of the changing European security environment, significantly reinforcing NATO’s collective defence posture. Framework nations Italy, France, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, respectively, lead these battlegroups along the eastern flank and represent a significant commitment by the Allies.Collectively with more forces to the northern battlegroups, this is the biggest reinforcement of the Alliance collective defence in a generation.
Not all battlegroups are the same in size and composition, determined by geographic factors, host nation requirements, current threat levels, and other considerations. Throughout their rotation, battlegroups train and exercise alongside other Allies and host nation defence forces to continuously improve their ability to work together while mastering combat tactics.
Regular rotations of Allied troops, most recently by nations such as Hungary, the United States, Italy, and France, demonstrate Allies’ continued commitment to enhance Euro-Atlantic security, reassure our Allies and deter our adversaries.
Photo by German-Netherlands Corps (1GNC) Facebook page
The future of NATO battlegroups in Eastern Europe is closely tied to the evolution of the relationship between Russia and NATO, and the security situation in the region. NATO will continue to protect its populations and defend every inch of Allied territory. Allied nations have committed to deploy additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on the eastern flank, and to increase existing battlegroups to brigade-size units where and when required to enhance and strengthen our deterrence and defence posture.
The 2022 NATO Strategic Concept identified Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.” The presence of these battlegroups is to signal to Russia that any aggression against NATO countries will be met with a strong response from the Alliance. The deployment of NATO battlegroups is a defensive measure and not an offensive one, the aim is not to attack Russia, but to deter any potential aggression towards NATO member countries.
At the Madrid Summit in June 2022, the Heads of State and Government of the North Atlantic Alliance stated:“We will enhance our collective defence exercises to be prepared for high intensity and multi-domain operations and ensure reinforcement of any Ally on short notice.” As a result, NATO continues to expand its high-readiness forces and has created a new force model, which represents a broader expansion of high-readiness forces. These new steps will strengthen NATO’s forward defences on the land, in the air, and at sea.
As the land domain advocate, LANDCOM ensures land forces are engaged, postured, and ready to fulfil key roles within the NATO Force Structure. In 2023,1German-Netherlands Corps assumed responsibility as theNATO Response Force (NRF) Land component alongside our maritime, air, space and cyber domains. The NRF is based on a rotational system where Allied countries provide a rapid military force able to respond to an emerging crisis globally on short notice.
In 2020, NATO reintroduced the concept of war fighting corps (WFC) and the United Kingdom-based Allied Rapid Reaction Corps certified as the first WFC since the Cold War. The WFC is a modular, scalable, and tailorable structure capable of conducting regional defence for NATO with up to five divisions and 120,000 troops. These troops are trained and capable of adapting to the demands of any given situation in the land domain on a short notice.Following a successful combat readiness evaluation (CREVAL) in 2022, Türkiye assumed the role of NATO’s WFC for 2023.
Establishing these additional high-readinessunits solidifies NATO’s visible and tangible demonstration of collective defence and the ability to act quickly, while deterring potential aggression.
Through its efforts such as the Battlegroup to Brigade initiative and other enhancements to the posture of Allied forces along the eastern flank, NATO will continue to increase its military presence and will remainvigilant as we stand together to defend our security, values, and democratic way of life.