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NATO military mobility corridor being set up across Northern Europe

Danish military equipment arrives in Port of Paldiski.
Danish military equipment arrives in Port of Paldiski. Source: Martin Liiskmaa

NATO allies within the European Union are working together to facilitate the more effective movement of military personnel and equipment right across Northern Europe, from North Sea ports to the alliance's Eastern Flank, Defense News reports.

NATO last week announced its Steadfast Defender plans, constituting the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War and to involve around 90,000 personnel from all 31 allied nations plus Sweden taking part.

Given Steadfast Defender's scale and scope, it will include an exercise whereby troops transit through ports in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, traveling along the road and rail networks of those states.

This would form part of a military corridor across the North European plain and which would extend eastward to Poland, which on its eastern frontiers borders Ukraine, Belarus and, via the Kaliningrad exclave, Russia.

Some-time Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who now heads that country's security council, labeled Poland a "dangerous enemy" late last year.

For Germany, the mobility concept will have some familiarity dating back the Cold War, when West Germany had been a front-line nation in effect.

With that frontier having moved significantly eastward since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Berlin needs fulfill this function anew, German State Secretary of Defense Siemtje Möller said recently, while Europe more broadly needs to demonstrate to Russia its ability to process military personnel and goods via its ports, roads and rail, Möller added.

The three countries involved – Germany, Poland and the Netherlands – inked a declaration of intent on development of the corridor, earlier this week.

Challenges mentioned include tackling infrastructure choke points, such as low bridges, and slashing bureaucracy relating to the cross-border transport of munitions and other dangerous goods, the Dutch ministry of defense says.

The prioritization of military over civilian rail transport will also be looked at.

Many European countries are "playing catch-up" following decades of under-investment after the end of the Cold War, Sarah Tarry, head of NATO's Defense Policy and Capabilities Directorate, told Defense News.

The agreement between Germany, Poland and the Netherlands "is absolutely a great model, and we need to do more like this to address the challenges," Tarry said.

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren gas said governments should use the NATO exercise to explain how investment in infrastructure will increase resilience and improve deterrence. "It's also going to show to our adversaries, especially the Russian Federation, that we are ready for this," the minister added.

"We know one thing for sure: If the crisis comes, we are not going to have the time to do our paperwork, the paperwork has to be ready," she added.

The three governments of the Netherlands, Germany and Poland, are to study how to standardize the conditions around military transports, including priority for military trains, fewer rules for military convoys and border crossings, as well as resting and refueling stops, as part of the initiative.

The Netherlands also coordinates the military mobility project of the EU Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Representative in Europe Rachel Ellehuus said that: "We have forces that are forward stationed in Europe, but then the vast majority of our forces are still in the United States," adding that "we'd be relying on that throughput across the Atlantic and that ability to be quickly received in Europe."

The EU earlier this month said it would be funding close to 40 projects aimed at facilitate transport of troops and equipment, at a cost of €807 million, raising its support for military mobility for the 2021-2027 period to a total of 95 projects, costing €1.7 billion, Defense News reports.

Defense News is a website and newspaper about the politics, business, and technology of national security published by Sightline Media Group and whose audience includes senior military, government, and industry decision-makers worldwide, the publication says.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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