Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey has pledged to be a “framework nation” for NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) by 2021. The force was originally designed to serve as a deterrent to Russian
aggression after President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Turkey hosted a foreign ministers’ meeting of NATO
on May 13-14, where Ankara
also proposed to host one of the alliance’s upcoming summits. The key outcome of NATO’s Wales summit a year ago was a Readiness Action Plan “to ensure the alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges” with a sense of urgency to counter the perceived threat of Russian
The VJTF will be fully operational by early 2017, but it will be declared operational at the next summit in Warsaw, due to take place in spring 2016.
The new quick-reaction forces, combining the armies of multiple member nations, will likely have 4,000 to 5,000 troops including sea, land and air forces. It will enable NATO
to react within only a few days to any threat against Euro-Atlantic security, regardless of its source. Germany, Spain, Britain, France, Italy and Poland will take command of the VJTF on rotation.
The alliance will decide on the VJTF program at the upcoming NATO
defense ministers’ meeting on June 23-24. NATO
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg responded positively to Turkey’s offer at the recent Antalya
meeting. “I welcome the decision by Turkey today to be a lead nation for the Spearhead Force,” Stoltenberg said.
The new VJTF force will most likely be more expensive than its predecessors, as it will be put on a higher readiness level. Taking the lead of the Spearhead Force as a hosting country, Turkey will likely assume some part of the financial burden, with the support of NATO
The Rapid Deployable Turkish Corps Headquarters, based at the 3rd Turkish Corps Headquarters near Istanbul, and the 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (also known as the “Peace Force Brigade”) in Ankara, are being considered as headquarters for the mission.
The force is likely to be tested in a number of exercises, leading to a higher number of NATO
military activities in the region.
Meanwhile, nine Russian
and Chinese navy vessels have gathered in the Mediterranean Sea for a joint military drill that will continue until May 21, the Russian
Defense Ministry has stated.
The first joint military exercises by the two countries in the region come amid high tensions between Russia
and the West over Ukraine, as China
is increasingly assertive in pursuing territorial claims at sea.
Last week, around 20 vessels representing nine NATO
member states conducted the Baltic Fortress 2015 exercises off the Lithuanian Baltic Sea coast.
At the Antalya
meeting of NATO
foreign ministers on May 15, Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said they were seeking permanent NATO
deployments on their soil to counter increased Russian
All three former Soviet republics have Russian
minorities and fear any Kremlin moves to inflame tensions after a pro-Russian insurrection in eastern Ukraine.
Turkey also recently donated 800,000 euros to the NATO
trust fund for Defense Capacity Building of Iraq, Jordan and Moldova, in work to start a program for training a neighboring Iraqi army.
These moves by Ankara
come amid claims from international media outlets that Turkey is stepping back from its role in the NATO
alliance, suggesting that the country is pushing to carve out an independent foreign policy and purchase arms from countries outside of NATO.