The Trojan Tank: How the American Militarisation of the EU Will Turn Out

12.01.2018

In the summer of 2018, the US will send the First Tank Brigade with the colourful name of ‘Ironhorse’ and which is part of the First Cavalry Army to Europe “under the auspices of the next rotation of forces for the Atlantic Resolve operation”. As the US mission to NATO explained, the division itself is permanently dislocated in Fort Hood in Texas.

An American presence

At the current moment in time, Europe isn’t independent in the military sphere. The main military structure on European territory remains NATO.

This is not the first ‘Trojan horse’ that the Americans have sent to Europe. Under operation Atlantic Resolve, which has been in effect since 2014, US ground forces take part in exercises in several countries: Poland, the Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. 

We must remember, that Atlantic Resolve is allegedly an answer to “Russian operations in the Donbass”. Actually, it is a pretext to send military forces to Central and Eastern Europe. As America explains, “the exercises improve joint coordination, strengthen relations and trust between allied armies, facilitate regional stability, and demonstrate American obligations to NATO”. 

The last few years have been rich in American active operations in Europe. In June, the missile destroyer ‘Porter’ was moved to the Black Sea under the auspices of the programme. Atlantic Resolve also presumes a regular presence on airbases in Estonia, Bulgaria, and Hungary. 

Under the auspices of operation ‘Dragoon Raid’ in 2015, the US and NATO moved military equipment and soldiers from the Baltics to Germany via Poland and the Czech Republic directly after Atlantic Resolve. This was down as demonstratively as possible and named a “march” that demonstrated NATO solidarity to Central and Eastern Europe.

Up to 200 aerial bombs are deployed on European territory, in relation to which the Russian Ministry of Defence demanded the removal of American weaponry.

The year 2017 was especially rich in American activity in Europe. In September, NATO forces held the large-scale Dragon-2017 training in Poland, which required the participation of 17 thousand soldiers and 3,5 vehicles from 12 countries.
After this, official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defence Igor Konashenkov declared, that the US Armed Forces have moved entire units to Poland. We are speaking of the Second Armoured Brigade, which is deployed in Boleslawiec, Torun, Skwierzyna, Żagań, and Drawsko Pomorskie.  

In September, alliance exercises named Ramstein Dust II-17 were held in Latvia, during which aerial operations were trained. A couple of days later, the exercises continued in Estonia (Sibul 2017), which the NATO battle group and Kaitseliit [the Estonian Defence League, a paramilitary unit – trnsl.] took part in.

In November, under the auspices of the Atlantic Resolve programme five UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were delivered to Riga International Airport. Under the same program, more than 80 soldiers from the Third Battalion of the 227th aviation regiment of the 1st US air cavalry brigade. Not long before this, the military transport ship Endurance offloaded 89 helicopters of the 1st air cavalry brigade in Belgian Zeebrugge.

Europe’s chances

Geopolitica.ru has written before about PESCO being a test of independence for Europe. Earlier, 23 member countries of the EU (including Austria, Cyprus, Finland, and Sweden, which are not part of NATO) signed an official letter to EU head diplomat Federica Mogerini in which they expressed a desire to join the Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO) programme. 

Any military union which swerves around NATO hegemony would be positive for the independence of continental Europe.
However, if we take a broad view of the situation, Europe isn’t yet capable of defending its interests. At the end of 2016, staff commander of the US land forces general Mark Milley declared, that in the future there might be an increase in US military presence on the European continent. According to him, “in the next one to two years” the US will examine the expedient enlargement of its military presence in Europe.

Russia’s reaction

It is important to note, that in actual fact NATO has started to build a bridgehead against Russia long before the Kiev coup, despite the agreements of the 90’s about limiting expansion. From that point, the Alliance has, on the contrary, consequently moved its military infrastructure to the Russian border.

Military experts emphasise, that alongside a ‘show of force’ there is another reason to militarise Europe: the difficulty of moving military cargo across European borders.

According to Konashenkov, there is now “not a brigade, but a US mechanised division” deployed along the Russian border. What is more, with such a dislocation is would be possible to deploy troops in just two hours.

Now, everything is about the so-called ‘military Schengen’, open borders for NATO forces through Europe. As was said in October by NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg while commenting on “bureaucratic barriers” to the deployment of Alliance forces, “this is a key question both inside NATO, as well as for NATO-EU cooperation”.

As a response measure, Moscow will have to develop its own military potential in a south-western direction. Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, has directly said that Russia will not allow the Black Sea to be turned into a “NATO lake”.  

Among important measures, we must pay special attention to the reformation of the 20th combined-arms army in 2015 and the transfer of high command to Voronezh. Divisional units are located in Voronezh, Nizhegorod, Smolensk, Kursk, Belgorod, and Bryansk oblasts. Later in 2016, the First Guard Tank Army in the Western military region was formed again, and Russian minister of defence Sergei Shoigu said, that new mechanised divisions (2 in the Western military region, one in the Southern) were being formed. In the same year, we moved an ‘Iskander M’ missile system to Kaliningrad oblast. 

Thus, the stakes are getting higher with every year: it is unlikely that a big war will take place. However, it will become noticeably easier for the Americans to organise provocations.

Translated from the Russian by V.A.V.