In the fictional country of Botnia, “Birdman”, the rebel leader, lives in a ramshackle shed in the woods while his separatist troops fight to destabilize a NATO-friendly country from the also fictional town of Alpha, a make-believe rebel stronghold.
Fortunately for peace-loving “Bothnians”, Birdman is captured by Czech and Dutch special forces who, after repelling from attack helicopters, storm his wooden shed under cover of smoke bombs. Meanwhile, the separatists dug in at Alpha are defeated by a wave of Polish tanks assisted by German and Norwegian air cover.
This absurd, yet familiar-sounding plot actually describes the “mission” conducted by NATO’s rapid reaction force in Poland last week. The latest Noble Jump maneuvers come on the heels of similar war games carried out in early April and are designed to ensure that NATO countries can deploy rapidly and fight as one unit to deter what the West calls “Russian aggression.” Here’s more on the “Botnia” siege via Deutsche Welle:
"Birdman" is the name that maneuver planners have given the opponent in the Bothnian enemy camp. He must be retrieved from a wooden house in the middle of the military training grounds in the forest. Stationed in the nearby village of "Alpha" are his followers, armed militiamen, who have begun to destabilize the region in southwestern Poland.
The scene is recognizable as it is loosely based on the situation in eastern Ukraine, except this time, a NATO member has been threatened by "little green men". After all, the planners want to make the situation as lifelike as possible. On command, masked Czech and Dutch Special Forces fast-rope out of US helicopters, throw smoke grenades, storm the wooden house and drag "Birdman" out. Scenes like this are reminiscent of films like "Black Hawk Down" or TV series, such as "Homeland".
Light armored vehicles belonging to Dutch-Czech support units approach, followed by waves of combat helicopters. German and Norwegian jets roar by and we're in the middle of a war film.
The flyover was intended to intimidate and disorient the opponent, as the live battle commentator states – at any rate, the noise is impressive. Marder tanks at the edge of the forest advance with battalion 371, while on the adjacent field, a German-Norwegian unit explodes a mine field. At the same time, Norwegian pioneers set up a mobile bridge so Polish tanks can drive over an anti-tank trench. German "Panthers" on the other side meanwhile shoot armor-piercing grenades at enemy terrain.
A commander's voice heard over army radio communications instructs "Tiger" to move in a southeast direction. "Do you copy?" he asks as a precaution. "Here Tiger, whatever you say, over," replies a voice in English with a Polish accent. The tanks roll across the field.
In a series of exercise maneuvers during the year, the super rapid reaction force is expected to bond and be prepared for battle. Within 48 hours, they must be ready for deployment to a potential conflict zone. The Noble Jump maneuver encompassed 2,100 soldiers, 440 vehicles and 56 tons of ammunition. In total, the rapid spearhead consists of 30,000 soldiers.
The latest NATO war games in Eastern Europe come as the US is set to reconsider how it deals with a resurrgent Russia (effectively "resetting" the infamous Obama "reset" of 2009). Although all signs point to a reinstatment of Cold War "containment" strategies, Defense Secretary Ash Carter is attempting to pitch the stepped up NATO preparedness and the planned stationing of heavy weapons on Russia's borders as a plan for the modern world. Here's more via Reuters:
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will urge NATO allies to "dispose of the Cold War playbook" during a trip to Europe this week, as the alliance adapts to a new kind of threat from Russia in the east and Islamic State to the south, U.S. officials said.
Carter heads first to Berlin, where he is expected to call for a more muscular global security role from Germany, Europe's largest economy. Germany remains hesitant to deploy troops abroad, seven decades after the end of World War Two.
"He will encourage Germany, under the firm leadership of the minister of defense, to increase their security role in the world, commensurate with their political and economic weight," a senior U.S. defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Relations between Moscow and the West have plunged to a post-Cold War low since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region. NATO says Russian is still actively providing military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, despite Moscow's denials.
U.S. officials say Ukraine has illustrated the importance of being able to counter "hybrid warfare," the blend of unidentified troops, propaganda and economic pressure that the west says Russia has used there. NATO's historic focus had been the conventional threats of the Cold War, which ended in 1991.
"Carter ... will really push the alliance to think about new threats, new techniques, urge them to kind of dispose of the Cold War playbook and think about new ways to counter new threats," the official said.
In visits in Germany and then in Estonia, Carter will get a first-hand look at NATO's new rapid response forces and climb aboard a U.S. warship fresh from Baltic Sea drills, aiming to reassure allies unnerved by Russia's intervention in Ukraine.
Carter will likely offer details on plans to pre-position heavy military equipment in Europe, the official said.
In other words, Washington is attempting to prepare its allies — especially regional powers like Germany — for the possibility of war with Russia in the event Moscow's 'expansionist' tendencies spread beyond Ukraine. This latest push by the Pentagon comes as Russian assets were seized in Belgium, France, and Austria in connection with Moscow's unwillingness to comply with what it deems an unjust ruling in The Hague and is also set against the backdrop of the slow motion disintegration of the Minsk ceasefire.
Don't expect Russia to overlook the similarities between the make-believe conflict in fictional Botnia and the very real civil war in Ukraine.
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As a reference point, here's a graphic showing all NATO drills conducted near Russia over the past 18 months: