FACT SHEET: U.S. Support and Reassurance Initiatives for the Baltics and Central Europe
For more than two decades, the United States has worked together with its Baltic and Central European Allies to advance our common defense and security goals in support of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. The United States has taken action, both bilaterally and through NATO, to reassure Allies of our solemn commitment to their security and territorial integrity and to show how seriously we take our NATO Article 5 collective defense obligations. A persistent, rotational U.S. air, land, and sea presence in the region is a necessary and appropriate show of support to Allies who are now deeply concerned by Russia’s military intervention in Crimea and its efforts to destabilize Ukraine.
The United States stands by its Allies, as they have stood by us – our Baltic and Central European Allies have contributed robustly and bravely to Alliance operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We look forward to discussing how to further enhance reassurance, readiness and deterrence at the September 4-5 NATO Summit in Wales, and will continue to take actions that increase the capability, readiness, and responsiveness of NATO forces. That is why the President has called on Congress to support a European Reassurance Initiative of up to $1 billion, which will enable us in the next year to undertake measures to:
- Increase U.S. military presence in Europe;
- Conduct additional bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with Allies and partners;
- Improve infrastructure to allow for greater responsiveness;
- Enhance prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe;
- Intensify efforts to build partner capacity for new NATO Allies and other partners;
- Strengthen the capacity of non-NATO partners.
New U.S. Measures
- Land Force Deployments: In April, approximately 600 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed for training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to enhance ongoing military-to-military relationships and demonstrate assurance of America's commitment to its NATO Allies. These exercises are part of a series of expanded American land force training activities with European partners that are scheduled to take place over the next few months and beyond.
United States Ongoing / Steady State Measures
- U.S. Force Presence: There are approximately 67,000 service members in Europe. Approximately 57,000 active duty service members are assigned to U.S. European Command, and approximately 10,000 support other organizations, such as U.S. Africa Command.
- NATO Response Force (NRF) Commitment: The United States has pledged several thousand service members to the NRF, including a brigade combat team from the Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, a hospital ship, air-to-air refueling tankers, and escort ships.
- Army Rotational Forces: The United States sends a battalion-sized unit from the United States to Europe twice a year for up to two months per rotation. One of these battalions recently participated in NRF exercise ROCHAMBEAU in France and is currently participating in U.S. European Command-hosted multinational exercise COMBINED RESOLVE II. Additionally, elements of the unit participated in NATO Exercise STEADFAST JAZZ this past November.
- U.S. National Guard Partnership: Since 1993 U.S. National Guard forces have partnered with their counterparts in the Baltic states, an initiative that has since expanded and now includes programs across almost all of Eastern Europe. We attach great value to these enduring partnerships, which have enhanced mutual understanding between our forces and improved our ability to operate together in the field.
- Exercises in the Baltic Sea: The United States sent U.S. Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force to the Baltics this April to participate in exercise SUMMER SHIELD. U.S. forces participated in exercises NAMEJS and FLAMING SWORD in Latvia and Lithuania, respectively, in May and participated in multilateral exercises BALTOPS and SABER STRIKE in the Baltic region in June. The United States deployed 18 F-16CJs and one KC-135 tanker to Łask Air Base, Poland, concurrent with the SABER STRIKE and BALTOPS exercise. BALTOPS is an annual, multinational maritime exercise focusing on interoperability, maritime security, and cooperation among Baltic Sea regional partners. SABER STRIKE is an annual, multinational ground and air exercise focused on enhancing interoperability among U.S. Army units and the land forces of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
- New Exercises: NATO launched a large-scale exercise, STEADFAST JAVELIN 1, in Estonia on May 16, which tested Allied forces on their ability to work together as well as maintaining NATO’s readiness and combat effectiveness. The exercise reflects NATO’s strong commitment to collective defense in the Baltic region. Around 6,000 troops from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated in the eight day exercise. Many participants were already in Estonia taking part in the annual Estonian-led KEVADTORM14 exercise that began on May 5 and that was merged into the NATO-led event. From September 3-9, troops from the United States, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Canada, and Italy will conduct a series of exercises in multiple locations in all three Baltic countries as part of the STEADFAST JAVELIN series of exercises.
- AWACS: On March 10, the North Atlantic Council approved establishing AWACS orbits over Poland and Romania to enhance NATO’s situational awareness of activities in the region and to reassure NATO Allies. These aircraft will only fly over NATO territory and will come from the NATO fleet and Allied contributions.
- Standing Naval Forces: In late April, NATO activated Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group One and sent it to patrol the Baltic Sea. The group, which consists of six ships from Belgium, Estonia, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, and Poland, is conducting port visits and participated in an annual mine clearance operation (NATO naval exercise OPEN SPIRIT 2014). On May 12, NATO tasked its augmented Standing NATO Maritime Group One to perform maritime assurance measures alongside counter-terrorism patrols in the eastern Mediterranean. The group includes five ships from Canada, Germany, Norway, Turkey, and the United States.
- Revised Planning: NATO is reviewing its plans and posture and is developing a Readiness Action Plan that includes a review of joint exercises, threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements, early-warning procedures, and crisis response planning. Allied leaders will discuss the Readiness Action Plan at the Wales Summit.
- Support to Ukraine: At NATO’s Foreign Ministerial in April, Allies agreed upon a number of measures to strengthen NATO’s partnership with Ukraine and support democratic reforms. Measures included an increased engagement with the Ukrainian civilian and military leadership. President Obama along with other Allied leaders will meet with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko during a formal session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the Wales Summit to discuss further enhancing the NATO-Ukraine partnership.