The newest American tanks arrived at the American military base in Bavaria on January 31. So what? According to the statements made by American military officials, 29 heavy new generation Abrams tanks would be a part of the European Activity Set (EAS). They are supposedly just to serve as equipment for the training center.
The appearance of the tanks is explained by the fact that at a time when the American command has decided to continue training American tank personnel in Europe, they had nothing to train them on. In the course of reducing the US military presence in Europe the last tank brigade was disbanded and all tanks sent back to the US. And now less than a year later a new generation of Abrams tanks has been shipped back to Europe. But now it is exclusively to strengthen the military cooperation with the European colleagues…
In the spacious grounds and shooting ranges of the Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC) at the US Tower Barracks military base in Grafenwöhr, military personnel from all over Europe have been trained there for many years. Why couldn’t the American military be trained at the American base? According to Colonel Thomas Matsel from the JMTC operations unit, “with the help of the EAS our regiments will have access to the whole spectrum of military operations that they potentially would have to conduct”.
The issue of a military equipment deficit in Europe is naturally an internal issue of the US and Europe’s NATO institutions. But the US has demonstrated a special interest towards a specific part of that “spectrum” – to the NATO Response Force. According to the American military, the “European set” created by them is to “give a new life to the US involvement in the NATO Response Force”.
Last fall Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, explained what the NATO Response Force was. “The NATO Response Force is units of fast response, the tip of the spear of the North Atlantic Alliance – … capable of guaranteeing the defense of any member-state, capable of being deployed in any place and to withstand any threat”. On rotation basis the member states allocated their military contingents to that force for a period of one year. It is a natural and plausible intent. But it turns out that as of late not only NATO countries are looking to guarantee the defense of the member states.
In 2014 Sweden, Finland and Ukraine will allocate their military contingents to the NATO Response Force, while in 2015 Georgia has offered to join the rotation of the response forces. The largest stages of last year’s military exercises in November 2013 took place in Latvia and Poland. This year four large-scale exercises are planned in the same locations. “Keeping the tip in a sharp and ready condition” (as the NATO Secretary General defined the task of the exercises) is taking place in the European theater of military operations and oftentimes next to Russia’s borders. Is it possible that now the problems of the European defense will be resolved not only with the help of American missile defense systems, but also with American tanks?
It appears that the suspicions that come to the minds of the conspiracy theory advocates would be dissolved by the format of the “American set”. The battalion and the elements of the higher-ranking command and control staff could hardly be considered a large-scale force. But it turns out that the Americans have also developed their own very peculiar rotation scheme. The First Team, the name of the US 1st Cavalry Division, the tank personnel of which served the first term in Germany, precisely reflects the future plans of the pentagon. The tank personnel from other units will replace the battalion of the First Team. And their rotation will take place much more frequently than once a year.
In the US people also agree that the military games of the current period increasingly remind one of the lavish years of the Cold War. While commenting on the return of American tanks to Germany, Michael Darnell of the Stars and Stripes newspaper points out: “When the 22 M1A1 Abrams departed the continent it was seen as the end of an era… Now, it appears that chapter of history may have been closed a bit prematurely”.