Dragoon Crossing: A show of force? An exercise? Both?

There is the US Army convoy just crossing Slovakia, see e. g.  So called Dragoon Crossing has many supporters, but also very loud opponents. Could you please shortly comment on my question how do you see such exercises? Are they (un)necessary in the situation we have in Europe, is it a show of force or just a mere exercise? Read few comments.

Soldiers and vehicles of 2nd Cavalry Regiment visiting Slovak MoD during Dragoon Crossinf. Credit: Andrej Matisak

Soldiers and vehicles of 2nd Cavalry Regiment visiting Slovak MoD during Dragoon Crossinf. Credit: Andrej Matisak

Daniel FiottFellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek), Senior Editor European Geostrategy

Exercises such as Dragoon Crossing are important for the NATO alliance. Let us recall that NATO has not had to think about deterrence operations for a long time, and the years spent on operations in places such as Afghanistan mean that it is natural for NATO to want to now conduct exercises that serve the purposes of deterrence. Such exercises feed into NATO’s learning process but they also show that the alliance is active in support of its eastern members – such exercises have been agreed to by all NATO members. Let us also not forget that no permanent force has been promised (we have the VJTF), and instead a rotational force posture has been decided on. Opting for a rotational posture means that key NATO allies such as the United States need to show its eastern allies that it can transport military units across Europe’s eastern flank with ease.

Simon SmithResearch Officer, Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, University of Bath

These units are on their way to NATO EX BRAVE WARRIOR? According to the NATO/ACT planning schedule, this will take place in Hungary over Oct/November period in order to ‘prepare the Battalion Battle Group for full spectrum of operations; to practice cooperation between Air Force and supporting forces and to enhance the DMP and troop leading capabilities of commanders and leaders’.

This seems quite routine to me and necessary given the refocus of NATO towards common defence. As I am sure you know, NATO has been much more orientated towards out of area security operations and not its original collective defence mandate for some time. However, actions to the south and especially the east of NATO’s borders have changed that calculus.  So exercises, and the transporting of men and materials that accompany them, fulfil two purposes. First, it demonstrates solidarity between NATO member states. Second, it allows NATO and its member states to relearn those collective defence skills that have not been exercised for some time.

John R. Deni*, Research Professor of National Security Studies, Strategic Studies Institute

Exercises such as this are vital to ensure allied interoperability — that is, the ability of allies to work together seamlessly in conducting any type of military operation, whether it be crisis management, humanitarian relief, counter-terrorism, or any other type of operation. More specifically, this particular event is vital to exercising the ability of NATO allies to move personnel and equipment across borders of member states and to handle the logistical challenges associated with that movement. These days, the Schengen Agreement makes it easy for individuals to cross European borders, but it’s not so easy for military equipment and units, even from one allied country to another. Practicing that now is vitally important so that allies know how to do so during an actual emergency or crisis.

* These views do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.

Charly Salonius-Pasternak, Senior Research Fellow, The Global Security research programme, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

think many countries frequently move their forces (and equipment) across ground, to places where they are needed for exercises. Within the construct of an alliance made up of many countries – such as NATO – it seems to me that crossing national boundaries is an extension of this logic. Nothing terribly special about it. However, it also seems to me that since this is being done, there has been a decision to take maximum PR-media advantage of these force movements. I think it would be a mistake not to move ones forces to places they are needed to exercise, for fear that someone else may purposefully misinterpret the moves – and it would be strange for an alliance member to deny movement through their country. I guess I fundamentally see that it makes sense to exercise, sometimes the vehicles required for the exercise are in a different place than the exercise so you move them (and the forces associated with them). IF you at the same time try to get media attention out of it, then that’s fine too.

Garret Martin, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University

Exercises such as Dragoon Crossing are quite common and routine. They are primarily a vehicle for training and to foster inter-operability between the armed forces of NATO member states. In this specific case, it is also a chance for the US to reassure its Central and Eastern European allies, in light of Russian actions in Ukraine, and to highlight US commitment to collective security.

Todor TagarevHead, Centre for Security and Defence Management, Frm. Bulgaria’s Defense Minister

In my view, this is part of an exercise, intentionally accompanied with higher level of visibility to demonstrate to the countries on NATO’s Eastern flank that “allies are here and will protect you in need”.

Manuel Muñiz, DPhil in International Relations Candidate, Oxford University

I believe it is part of ongoing efforts by NATO (and allies) to reaffirm their Article 5 commitments and make it clear to Russia that Ukraine and Georgia are one thing but NATO members are another (mainly the Baltics). So all in all I think this is not to be seen as a provocation but rather a reaffirmation of prior security commitments; and not as an act of aggression but of containment. We are, unfortunately, at a time when the word containment is re-entering our vocabulary when speaking of security in Europe.





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