NATO Top Military Officer: 'Defender 20' Is Facing Problems

Authored by Belit Onay via,

Defender 20 is a large-scale military exercise that has gotten under way in recent weeks. This year in February Americans will deploy 37,000 soldiers to Germany, Poland and the Baltic States. U.S. Army Europe’s Chief of Staff German Brig. Gen. Hartmut Renk gives a few remarks for DW.

“Defender-Europe 20 is slated to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based soldiers for an exercise to Europe in 25 years. This will be a massive exercise that will send U.S. soldiers to the continent next spring to conduct force projection and readiness training to deter potential adversaries,” stressed the German general.

Defender 20 is a US-led multinational exercise that involves 19 countries.

Germany will serve as the logistics hub for moving equipment and supplies. Defender 2020 will also validate that German infrastructure is up to the task. The units participating in the exercise will be supported by the German Bundeswehr.

It is also critical for Germans to test their own physical infrastructure – roads and bridges. These can be seriously threatened as the weight of a tank transported on a trailer can exceed 130 tons. Military equipment will also be transported by rail and river.

The German general also mentioned that three so-called convoy support centers have been set up for the military convoys on the military training area Bergen in the Lüneburg Heath. There’s also a fuel tanker there. Some US units will bring their own equipment whereas others will use the equipment inventory already stored in Europe.

Commenting on possible Polish cooperation during Defender 20, Brig. Gen. Hartmut Renk estimated that Germany is ready for the upcoming maneuvers whereas the preparations of the Polish Army look like a real disaster. The security system, locations and technical support structures of allied forces in Poland during Defender 20 do not match the exercise requirements.

According to the German general, the worst situation is at the training grounds at Ustka and Drawsko Pomorskie.

“It’s terrible that American soldiers will live in such conditions. The barracks look like ruined stables. Mice and rats are prowling the concrete floor. It’s cold and wet. In Germany pigs are kept in better conditions. Technical support is at the level of “crowbars and hammers,” said general Renk.

It’s worth mentioning that Poland will be one of the epicentres of one of those smaller, linked exercises – exercise Allied Spirit. This will be a division-size exercise led by the United States Army 1st Cavalry Division.

Allied Spirit features a live wet gap crossing, in other words a river crossing that will take place at the Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area in north-western Poland. This time the task will be accomplished by a multinational bridging team (German and British soldiers) including rotary and fixed-wing support coming from the US and the Czech armed forces. Unfortunately, during the exercise Anakonda-18, in this instance, soldiers of the Polish Army failed to build a pontoon bridge, and flights and artillery firing were canceled.

“Lack of professionalism and complete irresponsibility which the command of the Polish Army keeps demonstrating from year to year, may be a reason to cancel the planned actions during exercise Defender 20...” – summarized Brig. Gen. Hartmut Renk.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Kramer, who leads EUCOM exercise programs, said DEFENDER-Europe 20 is the most massive exercise since the Cold War.