US to increase Defense contributions to NATO in Europe

The United States responded swiftly and effectively in close cooperation with its NATO Allies to the European security crisis brought about by Russia's aggression against Ukraine. The U.S. contributions to the Alliance's response were enabled by the substantial forces that the country had already stationed in and deployed to Europe, including robust prepositioned equipment and stocks, as well as substantial investments in infrastructure and military mobility enabled by European Deterrence Initiative funding.
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M1A2 Abrams protected by Belgian security airmen in Antwerp Euroterminal, November 2020 (Picture source: Belgian MoD)

The U.S. response included dispersing forces already in Europe to bolster NATO's Eastern Flank, including the deployment of attack aviation from Germany to Lithuania; an airborne infantry battalion from Italy to Latvia; elements of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Germany dispersed to Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary; Patriot batteries from Germany to Slovakia and Poland; and F-15 jet fighters from the UK to Poland. These deployments have varied in length based on operational requirements and sustainability considerations.

Since February 2022, the U.S. DoD deployed or extended over 20,000 additional forces to Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis, adding additional air, land, maritime, cyber, and space capabilities, bringing our current total to more than 100,000 service members across Europe. This included extending a Carrier Strike Group, deploying additional fighter squadrons and lift/tanker aircraft, and deploying an Amphibious Readiness Group and Marine Expeditionary Force. DoD added a Corps Headquarters, Division Headquarters, Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) battalion, and multiple enablers to the existing Corps Forward Command Post, Division Headquarters, and three BCTs (Brigade Combat Teams) already stationed in or deployed to Europe.

The US.S also placed the entire U.S. commitment to the NATO Response Force on heightened readiness.

Last month, the U.S. Secretary of Defense decided to extend or replace the majority of the "surge force," ensuring a robust deterrent and defensive posture alongside the Allies across the European continent. The United States will continue to adjust its posture as needed in response to the dynamic security environment.

On June 29, President Biden announced at the NATO Summit in Madrid the following additional long-term commitments to bolster European security:
• In Poland, we will permanently forward station the V Corps Headquarters Forward Command Post, an Army garrison headquarters, and a field support battalion. These forces – the first permanent U.S. forces on NATO's Eastern Flank – will improve our command and control capabilities, interoperability with NATO, and management of prepositioned equipment. This action builds on the central role Poland has played in supporting NATO's combat credible deterrence and defense posture. The United States will also continue to maintain, and seek to enhance, its substantial rotational force presence in Poland, including an Armored Brigade Combat Team, Combat Aviation Brigade element, and Division Headquarters element, which enables DoD to deploy combat forces up and down the Eastern Flank.

• In Romania, the United States will position a rotational Brigade Combat Team, thus maintaining an additional brigade on the eastern flank compared to our January 2022 posture. This additional brigade headquartered in Romania will maintain the ability to deploy subordinate elements across the eastern flank. This brigade will complement the other Brigade Combat Teams stationed and operating in Europe.

• In the Baltic region, the United States will enhance its rotational deployments – which include armored, aviation, air defense, and special operations forces – to reinforce Baltic security, enhance interoperability, and demonstrate the flexibility and combat readiness of U.S. forces. We will maintain a persistent, heel-to-toe presence in the region and will intensify training with our Baltic Allies to maintain combat-credible capabilities in the region.

• In Spain, the United States is working with the government to increase the number of destroyers stationed at Rota from four to six.

• In the United Kingdom, we are increasing our Fifth Generation Fighter presence and ability to support Allies across Europe by forward-stationing two squadrons of F-35s at RAF Lakenheath.

• In Germany, the United States will forward station an air defense artillery brigade headquarters, a short-range air defense battalion, a combat sustainment support battalion headquarters, and an engineer brigade headquarters – approximately 625 military personnel in total. These forces will enhance DoD's air defense capabilities and enabler support in Europe, which will provide key reinforcement to NATO capabilities and allow DoD to respond more effectively to threats against NATO's eastern flank. These forces build upon the recent forward stationing of the Multi-Domain Task Force and Theater Fires Command in Germany, which Secretary Austin announced in April 2021.

• In Italy, the United States will forward station a short-range air defense battery – totaling approximately 65 personnel. This battery is a subordinate unit of the short-range air defense battalion that the DoD is stationing in Germany.

All of these combat-credible forces and enablers are supported by significant investments in the long-term U.S. presence in Europe. In Fiscal Year 2022, the U.S. DoD continues to execute $3.8 billion in European Deterrence Initiative funding (with another $4.2 billion requested in FY23) for rotational forces, exercises, infrastructure (construction of storage facilities, airfield upgrades, and training complexes) and prepositioned equipment. The robust exercise program also complements the U.S. forces that are forward-stationed or rotating through the theater and serves to increase their presence while building interoperability with NATO allies.

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Biden Announces Changes in U.S. Force Posture in Europe

June 29, 2022 | By Jim Garamone, U.S. Department of Defense

President Joe Biden announced moves that will enlarge the U.S. troop presence in Europe and strengthen the NATO alliance.

Biden made the announcement at the beginning of the NATO Summit in Madrid today following a welcome from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The move belies efforts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to shatter the Trans-Atlantic alliance. "NATO is strong, united, and the steps we're taking during this summit are going to further augment our collective strength," Biden said. "To that end, today, I'm announcing the United States will enhance our force posture in Europe to respond to the change security environment, as well as strengthening our collective security."

The president's announcement comes on the heels of a surge of 20,000 U.S. service members to Europe to defend alliance countries in the face of Putin's unprovoked and unnecessary war on Ukraine. There are now more than 100,000 U.S. service members serving in Europe with many along the eastern front of the alliance.

The changes the president announced have been made in close consultation with allies and will be made over the coming months.

John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council, said the move comes after President Biden has worked for several months to shore up NATO's eastern flank.

"Just since the invasion itself, he ordered the deployment or extension of over 20,000 additional forces to Europe, in response to the crisis, across all domains — air, land, maritime, cyberspace — the whole swath of U.S. military capabilities," Kirby said.

Spotlight: NATO

The Madrid Summit must deal with a fundamentally changed security environment, and Biden's announcement is part and parcel of that. The president's moves "are reflective of the United States government's recognition that the security environment has changed and, in particular, in the NATO that the Eastern countries are facing a heightened threat from a Russian leadership that has shown itself willing and capable of launching military attacks on bordering countries," said Celeste A. Wallander, the Defense Department's assistant secretary for international security affairs.

At the summit, Biden said he will increase from four to six the number of U.S. destroyers based at Rota Naval Base, Spain. "In Poland, we're going to establish a permanent headquarters of the U.S. 5th Army Corps and strengthen NATO interoperability across the entire eastern flank," he said.

The Army's V Corps headquarters will be a forward command post, an Army garrison headquarters, and a field support battalion, said DOD officials traveling with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who is also attending the summit. The forces will improve command and control capabilities, interoperability with NATO, and management of prepositioned equipment.

Poland has been a steadfast ally and enabler of many of the alliance's moves, officials said. The United States will also maintain a substantial rotational force presence in Poland, including an armored brigade combat team, a combat aviation brigade element, and a division headquarters element. This enables DOD to deploy combat forces up and down the eastern flank, officials said.

In Romania, the United States will position a rotational brigade combat team. This additional brigade will also maintain the ability to deploy subordinate elements. The U.S. will also enhance its rotational deployments in the Baltic republics. These include armored, aviation, air defense and special operations forces.

The U.S. military will also maintain a persistent, heel-to-toe presence in the region and will intensify training with Baltic allies to maintain combat-credible capabilities, officials said.

Biden also announced the deployment of two additional F-35 squadrons to RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. These fifth-generation fighters will add to the air support for NATO forces throughout Europe.

The president said he will also deploy additional air defense, logistics and engineer assets in Germany and add air defense capabilities to forces in Italy.

These changes come on the heels of deployments made since Putin invaded Ukraine and directly challenged the rules-based infrastructure that has served the world since World War II. The U.S. response included sending airborne forces from Italy to the eastern flank, Stryker units to the front-line states, Patriot batteries to Slovakia and Poland, and F-15s from the United Kingdom to Poland.

In addition, Austin placed thousands of U.S. troops designated for NATO's Rapid Reaction Force on heightened alert for possible deployment to Europe.