New NATO units in Eastern Europe gear up to support exercises and military planning
The Alliance’s six new small headquarters in Eastern Europe – the NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs) –are off to a busy start. Inaugurated six months ago in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, the units have since participated in major military exercises and welcomed new staff. They are on track to become fully operational by the Warsaw Summit in July 2016.
“These small headquarters are part of the most significant reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence since the end of the Cold War,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the opening of the NFIU in Lithuania last September. At that time, NATO’s flag was raised over six such units in Bucharest (Romania), Bydgoszcz (Poland), Riga (Latvia), Sofia (Bulgaria), Tallinn (Estonia), and Vilnius (Lithuania). They serve as a vital link between national forces and multinational NATO forces. If required, the units will also support reinforcements, helping forces move quickly and effectively.
In the last six months, NFIU commanders have worked on establishing and staffing the units. At full strength, each office will have around 40 staff, half coming from the host country and the rest from other Allies. Diverse teams are being formed: the unit in Latvia will host personnel from eight Allies, while there will soon be 14 nations represented at the NFIU in Lithuania.
The units are already gearing up to help plan and exercise NATO forces. The Estonian unit participated in planning exercise Arcade Fusion 2015, while the Polish one made its debut during Noble Jump 2015. This year will challenge the NFIUs with an even busier exercise schedule (available here).
To support NATO’s ability to defend Eastern Allies, two more small NATO headquarters will be activated in the near future, in Hungary and Slovakia.