Exercise Defender Europe 2020 remains a strong demonstration of United States commitment to vulnerable allies and partners on NATO’s Eastern Flank, and to all of Europe, states COL (R) Ray Wojcik, former US Army Attaché in Poland, Director of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Warsaw.
COL(R) Wojcik highlighted the recent SACEUR statement in this regard. “Gen. Tod D. Wolters, Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR), NATO pointed this out a few months ago when he said about DEFENDER: The planning itself <of DEFENDER-20> is Deterrence!” Director Wojcik said.
CEPA’s Warsaw Director underlined that the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic (coronavirus), has impacted a number of exercises in the region.
But he reminded that Defender Europe 2020 started in January – and a lot has been accomplished since that time.
“DEFENDER-20, is actually a large umbrella exercise with several exercises collected together underneath it. Most of the individual exercises have been cancelled, however a large group of American soldiers arrived to Europe, and planning continues for some combined training with Poland, and potentially other regional allies. Plans are reviewed daily by US Army Europe (USAREUR) leaders, as the Army seeks to ensure that protection of soldiers is paramount. Potentially, as the situation allows, combined Brigade training and gunnery, can occur at Poland’s premier range complex Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area (DPTA), in the northwest of Poland.”
COL(R) Wojcik said that in spite of challenges, many important Defender Europe 2020 objectives were accomplished in deploying US forces from the United States. ”A major portion of DEFENDER 20 still occurred which was crucial in testing sea lines of communication and military mobility. Multiple western European ports were utilized, airports, road and rail networks,” he added.
The United States Army is already planning Defender 2021
As COL(R) Wojcik pointed out, a huge amount of equipment and many thousands of soldiers arrived in Europe. “DEFENDER began in late January 2020, and 6,000 Soldiers deployed from the United States to Europe. Along with the troops, 9,000 vehicles and equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS) were drawn from storage sites in 4 allied nations, testing key strategic “forward-positioned” capabilities. And, 3,000 pieces of major equipment were shipped from the United States”, COL(R) Wojcik explained.
He noted as planning continues, and the situation allows, USAREUR hopes that US soldiers can take part in brigade-level training in Poland. COL(R) Wojcik underlined the “outstanding support of our allies and partners, and in particular what Poland continues to do to make sure that very successful and dynamic training can occur at DPTA”, he added.
“Even better news is the fact that the US is already planning DEFENDER 21 drawing on important lessons from DEFENDER 20”, CEPA’s Director in Warsaw remarked.
Implementation of NATO summit agreements
As the former US Attaché in Poland assessed, “DEFENDER since planning started, and up until now, is demonstrating US and NATO strategic readiness, in the form of following through on NATO Summit Declarations regarding deterrence, including execution of a robust transatlantic exercise”.
“It has allowed the US/NATO to validate a wide range of Host Nation Support and Host Nation Reception, Staging and Onward movement capabilities including multiple ships, air and troop deployments from the United States”, COL(R) Wojcik added.
As COL(R) Wojcik stressed, all of this has been done in spite of COVID-19.
We should not forget about Russia
Defender Europe 2020’s message to Russia, which is trying to destabilize the region in many ways.
”The take away to potential adversaries should be clear, (1) respect for US capabilities to support our Allies and partners, (2) a clear understanding of US and allied commitment, and (3) the costs associated with miscalculating allied commitment to NATO’s eastern flank. In spite of the shortened exercise, many lessons have been learned to improve US/NATO strategic readiness”, COL(R) Wojcik added.
CEPA’s Warsaw Director highlighted Poland and Germany as very important allies in working together to accomplish many DEF20 objectives.
”DEFENDER has helped to deepen allied relationships through planning and execution. Particularly Poland and Germany, working closely together, solving problems, and learning together. Poland and Germany have also played important roles politically and with Host Nation Support at multiple levels. German and Polish leaders made it clear in their messaging that the threat from Russia is real, and that DEF20-like exercises are important to allied solidarity,” COL(R) Wojcik stated.
Plans for Drawsko Pomorskie (DPTA)
CEPA’s Warsaw Director expressed that combined brigade-level exercises are a very important element of the plan.
“In 2019, the United States and Poland agreed to cooperatively develop DPTA into a state of the art range complex, and exercises like DEF20 can test how DPTA is ready today, and provide lessons on how to develop DPTA in the future to have capabilities similar to United States Joint Multinational Training Centers,” COL(R) Wojcik emphasized.
“In fact, it is hard to maneuver brigades on any training range, and it’s important to train at that this level in a combined environment.”
Russia is watching DEF20 exercises closely
“In spite of major COVID-19 interruptions, the US and its allies are seeing it as yet a strategic success demonstrating US ability to rapidly respond. DEFENDER is importantly in plain view of Russia, keenly aware of our capabilities and commitment. Another element to note is American agility, and strength as we recently witnessed USAREUR lead efforts to bring desperately needed medical supplies to our allies in Italy,” CEPA’s Warsaw Director emphasized.
“When you consider major logistics aspects, DEFENDER 20 also sends a message to US Congress and policy makers about the crucial role played by US European Defense Initiative (EDI) funding provided by the US, which includes funding Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) rotational units, APS equipment, and infrastructure investments which Congress should continue to prioritize”, COL(R) Ray Wojcik concluded.