NATO tests rapid reaction forces in Czech, Dutch exercise
NATO exercises testing its newly forged rapid reaction forces were underway Thursday in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands involving some 1,500 troops, an alliance official said.
Some 900 German and 200 Dutch troops have been deployed in drills in the Netherlands with an additional 150 in the Czech Republic, said Captain Marek Marszalek from the Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy.
"They got the task two days ago to move from the barracks to the embarcation point," he told reporters at the Chrudim airfield some 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Prague.
Dubbed Noble Jump, the exercises are designed to test NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), established in the wake of the alliance's September 2014 summit in Wales, which was focussed on reinforcing the alliance's eastern flank amid jitters over Russia.
"The key task is to check the new concept of fast deployment within dozens of hours following the command, not dozens of days as before," Czech Army Major General Jiri Baloun told reporters at Chrudim.
"The scenario is placed in the Baltic states. You can imagine the context yourselves," Baloun said.
Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine have triggered concern in ex-communist eastern and central European states that joined NATO after the Cold War.
Tension is particularly high in the Baltic states, which emerged from nearly five decades of Soviet occupation in the early 1990s.
Another Noble Jump drill focussed on rapid troop deployment is planned for June in Poland.
Some 25,000 NATO troops will be deployed in Italy, Portugal and Spain for another VJTF drill in October and November, said Marszalek.
© 2015 AFP