The UK is to take over the rotating leadership of Nato’s “very high readiness” joint task force, created after the last summit of alliance leaders in Wales in 2014. Three thousand British troops, based in Britain and Germany, will eventually make up the bulk of the 5,000-strong detachment, with forces from countries including Denmark, Spain, Estonia and the US.
How many will survive to regret this?
Stripping away innuendo and insinuation, an article by Deborah Haynes in Warsaw records that five hundred British troops will be stationed from next year in Estonia and 150 will form an “enduring” presence in Poland. The forces will be “defensive in nature but clearly combat capable”, a Whitehall source said. They will be part of a commitment by NATO to station four new battalions, totalling about 4,000 personnel, as part of a reinforcement of NATO’s border with Russia. A further 3,000 British military personnel will lead a new emergency task force in 2017.
In a strategic use of terminology, the force will be described as a “persistent” or “enduring” presence, to avoid breaking a longstanding deal with Russia that Nato will not “permanently” deploy troops on its eastern flank.
The Murdoch Times reports that there is (American/NATO?) concern that countries such as Germany and France are seeking to build a European army rather than focussing their military resources on NATO.
The article twice anticipates a verbal rebuke from Moscow and records that NATO members who are neighbours of Russia are concerned that President Putin may seek to create unrest within their borders as well.
David Cameron is reported to have said: “The UK is proud to be taking the lead role, deploying troops across eastern Europe.”
Many readers, however, will feel apprehensive – certainly not proud – echoing Germany’s foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in warning against “saber-rattling and war cries” directed toward Russia and joining the United States Conference of Mayors, in condemnation of NATO’s Anaconda War Games and massing of troops on Russia’s border.