Czech Mechanized Infantry joins the NATO Force Integration Unit Lithuania

Czech Mechanized Infantry joins the NATO Force Integration Unit Lithuania
Author: 270862, flickr|Caption: 30mm ATK Bushmaster Mk.44 cannon, Pandur II
20 / 07 / 2018, 09:00

A mechanized company equiped with Pandur II wheeled infantry fighting vehicles has arrived to Lithuania and will stay in the country until January 2019 when the next rotation occurs. The NATO Force Integration Unit Latvia has been joined by a Czech mortar company in June.

The Alliance has opened eight Force Integration Units in Sofia (Bulgaria), Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania), Bydgoszcz (Poland) and Bucharest (Romania), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Székesfehérvár (Hungary) following a decision taken at the Wales Summit in September 2014 as part of NATO’s Readiness Action Plan. These units represent a visible and persistent NATO presence in these member countries to respond to the changed security environment on the Alliance’s borders.

Four multinational battalion-size battle groups were formed within the NFIUs in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland subsequently to the 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions as the NATO’s response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. Primary responsibility of the Force Integration Units is to facilitate the rapid deployment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) and other Response Force (NRF) elements in order to enhance Alliance responsiveness.

See also: Current Foreign Deployments of the Czech Army

“Deployment of Czech forces to Lithuania demonstrates the country’s firm support and NATO solidarity in ensuring security of Lithuania and the Baltic Region. The active allies’ participation in the NATO eFP in the Baltic states and Poland sends a clear signal that the Alliance is strong, united, and ready to respond to any threat,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says.

The NATO eFP Battalion Battle Group was deployed in Rukla, about 70 km North-West from Vilnius, in 2017 and is led by Germany. Personnel and weapons to the NATO eFP Battle Group are also contributed by Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, and Iceland. In total, the strength of the multinational unit is roughly 1,200; Czech Army sends 230 men of a mechanized company from the 41st Mechanized Battalion of the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, strenghtened with an engineer platoon, logistics unit and a medical team, and equiped with 80 vehicles including the Pandur II wheeled infantry fighting vehicles. The troops moved to Lithiuania by three trains between 9th and 11th July. The Czech contingent was formally inaugurated as part of the NATO eFP in Rukla on 17th July.

The main task of the company is to develop combat capabilities within the international environment by intensive training. The aim is to ensure efficient collaboration between the troops of various nations in case of an escalated crisis. The mission also provides opportunity to train redeployments of troops and equipment over long distances and accross foreign countries.

„With our colleagues we will train combat operations such as attack, defence, redeployments and escorts. These belong among the standard activities of a mechanized battalion,“ the commander of the 41st Battalion lieutenant-colonel Jiří Líbal said.

Since June 55 Czech soldiers of a mortar company from the 71st Mechanized Battalion of the 7th Brigade are deployed in Ādaži Training Center in Latvia as part of the NATO NATO Force Integration Unit Latvia led by Canada, with troops from Albania, Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

The Czech contingents are deployed in Lithuania and Latvia by decision of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic with their mission approved to run as part of the NATO eFP until December 2020. The ground forces will rotate every six months in both Lithuania and Latvia.

In 2009 and 2012 Czech Air Force detachments carried out the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states and the Czech Republic will deploy another rotation of personnel and JAS-39 Gripen fighters to conduct the mission in the second semester of 2019.

The policy statement of the Czech Government says: “We will contribute to the Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics, the NATO Response Force (NRF), including the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), and air policing, and we will help to up robust Follow-on Forces.“

The Czech presence in the Baltics and the contextual activities were and continue to be one of the main issues from the Czech Communist point of view. Despite their opposition, they supported the new Government on 11th and 12th July and voted yes together with the ANO and Socialist deputies. Therefore, the Government won the mandatory confidence vote.

See also: New Czech Government: do we strenghten the Czech foreign deployments?

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