Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held a phone conversation on July 14. There was a plethora of burning issues to tackle, still the leaders found time to discuss the urgent enhancement of Lithuania – Poland – Ukrainian brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) up to operational status. The signing is to be expedited as the events in Ukraine unfold. Radoslav Sikorski, the Polish Foreign Minister, flew to Kiev the very next day. The acceleration of bringing the formation into the state of operational combat readiness topped the bilateral agenda. The Ukrainian President’s press-office said the signing of the agreement to make the new unit operational is going to take place as soon as possible. There is a background here. The hot topic sprang up as 600 paratroopers of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade in Poland and the Baltics were training with their allies to increase interoperability between the forces.
The 4,500-strong LITPOLUKRBRIG brigade will have its headquarters and staff in Lublin, Poland, with the national components stationed in their respective countries and gathering together for exercises and foreign missions. The staff officers cooperate on a regular basis. Once the unit reaches operational readiness this summer or fall, it will be used to fulfill tasks given to it by NATO, the European Union and the UN. The operating language of the brigade will be English uniting Ukrainians with NATO allies. It is envisaged that the Ukrainian side will provide 545 servicemen, including 18 command officers, as well as an airborne battalion, a repair company, a company of material support, an artillery battery, an engineering company, a military police platoon, a joint psychological operations unit and a platoon of radiation, chemical and biological intelligence.
On July 4 prime ministers of the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) made a statement on further progress in defence cooperation and enhance defence capability. The statement says the V4 are open to cooperation with other partners, particularly Ukraine. The joint V4 joint body would comprise 3,000 soldiers contributed by the four countries. All parties have common borders and vested interest in Ukraine including the plight of minorities. The Visegrad battle group is not just an operational unit to get together from time to time to hone interaction. The formation is in for coordinated long-term planning and joint acquisitions. The V4 countries’ overall goal should be to use the battle group to instil a habit of permanent cooperation, and to provide the region with rapid deployment capability.
The Visegrad battle group is designated for a whole range of missions, including intervening in armed conflicts on ten days’ notice. Like in the case of LITPOLUKRBRIG, the V4 battle group will have similar equipment (much of it still from the Soviet era), and they will need to replace it on similar timelines. The both formations represent an opportunity for joint acquisitions, all the more if collaboration recurs regularly. It makes Ukraine fit perfectly as a partner.
On 21 March 2014, Ukraine signed the political provisions of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement that commits both parties to promote a gradual convergence toward the EU's Common Security and Defense Policy and European Defence Agency policies. The LITPOLUKRBRIG is another step on the way to link Ukraine – EU military structure, which in turn dovetails its activities with NATO. Having signed a political part of EU association agreement to be followed by bringing V4 battle group and LITPOLUKRBRIG into operational status making Ukraine an informal associate NATO member with all the consequences to face including the reaction of Russia. The events described above are all the steps on the way of implementation of present North Alliance plans. Ukraine is a member of the ‘Partnership for Peace’ program, which allows non-NATO countries to cooperate individually with the Alliance to strengthen multilateral security relations.
NATO is planning to respond to a transforming security environment with a ‘readiness action plan’, which is being prepared ahead of an Alliance summit in Wales, U.K. this September. The plan aims to strengthen the Alliance’s infrastructure to respond quickly to threats while focusing on defense plans, joint exercises, and intelligence sharing between its members, «The plan aims to strengthen the Alliance’s infrastructure to respond quickly to threats while focusing on defense plans, joint exercises, and intelligence sharing between its members», said Rasmussen speaking following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on July 9 in Berlin. Poland, the Baltics and Romania have all signaled an intention to raise their respective defence budgets to the NATO-set target of 2% of GDP – and their ultimate ambition is to have US forces permanently stationed on their territory. With the winding down of NATO combat operations in Afghanistan these countries have found in Ukraine a reinforced NATO’s core raison d'être. Major exercises began last month in Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia involving several hundred personnel from US special operations forces (SOF). Long-term plans include further training drills that will consistently keep about 100 US elite troops on the ground at any one time in NATO states close to Russia with teams working in several countries. The Stars and Stripes, the US leading defense outlet, reported on May 9 that the plans for the expanded and permanent presence of US SOF on the territory of states bordering the Russian territory have been underway long before the current Ukrainian crisis, «In addition to long-standing annual exercises, SOCEUR has added a number of new training programs over the next two months in five counties across the Baltics and eastern Europe. Follow-on missions are also being planned to ensure an ongoing presence of special operators, according to the command». The commander of SOCEUR, Air Force Major General Marshall B. Webb, is quoted by the newspaper saying «Through these types of annual exercises, SOCEUR elements have developed lasting relationships and extensive interoperability with our special operations partners in the majority of countries bordering Ukraine over the last seven years».
The US President Obama said during his June visit to Poland, «Our commitment to Poland’s security, as well as the security of our allies in Central and Eastern Europe, is a cornerstone of our own security, and it is sacrosanct», he told a contingent of 50 American and Polish airmen and service members, «As friends and as allies, we stand united, together and forever».
LITPOLUKRBRIG, the V4 battle group, the extension of US presence and the intensification of special operations activities are all hostile concerted actions of EU, Ukraine and NATO in stark violation of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in 1997… Russia would consider any further expansion of NATO forces near its borders a «demonstration of hostile intentions» and would take political and military measures to ensure its own security, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov told Interfax in an interview. «We cannot see such a build-up of the alliance's military power near the border with Russia as anything else but a demonstration of hostile intentions». One of the options that would be the deployment of the Iskander-M surface-to-surface tactical missile on the territory of the Kaliningrad Region. With a range of 298 miles and could reach the NATO BMD launch site in Redzikovo among other targets. Moreover, it is a precision weapon that cannot be intercepted by missile defense as it highly maneuverable and follows an unpredictable trajectory. Russia could deploy the system if NATO decides to strengthen its military presence in Eastern Europe, Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky told RIA Novosti on May 7. «Russia is a nuclear power», he said. «If NATO becomes more active, we will deploy a division of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad region», added the General, who previously headed the department of international agreements in the Russian Defense Ministry. Gradually dragging Ukraine – a state at the immediate border with Russia – into military formations with EU and NATO members is seen as hostile activity and the Russian Federation will hardly stand idle simply watching the events unfold.