In the first half of 2024, NATO will conduct a series of exercises under the collective codename Steadfast Defender-24 (STDE-24), marking a significant event in the alliance’s history since its expansion in 1999. These exercises, predominantly taking place in Central Europe, will see the participation of approximately 90,000 soldiers from all NATO member states and Sweden.
The primary focus of these exercises is to test the Alliance’s capability to deter and defend against potential threats, including repelling an attack on NATO countries. The General Command of the Armed Forces informed that during STDE-24, Poland will play a pivotal role as one of the host nations, welcoming a significant number of soldiers and equipment from allied countries.
A central component of STDE-24 is the Polish national exercise Dragon-24 (DR-24), set to begin at the turn of February and March. The General Command emphasized that both STDE-24 and DR-24 are defensive in nature and not directed against any specific country. Instead, these exercises are seen as a demonstration of the Alliance’s capabilities to counter aggressive policies and provocative activities, notably those of the Russian Federation.
The exercises within Steadfast Defender 24, including national exercises with the participation of armed forces from other countries like Dragon-24 and the U.S. European Command’s Defender-24, are set to be the largest display of the Alliance’s defense capabilities since the first wave of NATO’s enlargement in 1999, which included Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. This year’s exercises also coincide with the 75th anniversary of NATO’s formation.
The General Command clarified that the DR-24 exercise will test the Polish Armed Forces’ ability to respond to a potential multidimensional military crisis. DR-24, involving about 20,000 soldiers and 3,500 units of equipment from 10 NATO countries, including approximately 15,000 soldiers from the Polish Armed Forces, aims to strengthen the Alliance’s deterrence and defense potential, demonstrating the strength and determination arising from its unity.
In DR-24, soldiers will be tested in interoperability and combat task execution on land, air, and sea. Additionally, military operations in these domains will be complemented by actions in cyberspace.
The exercise will involve soldiers from the 11th Lubusz Armored Cavalry Division and special forces, air force, navy, and territorial defense troops. It will also include elements of allied forces currently in Poland, such as the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group.
The General Command explains that the exercise will be divided into two phases. The first phase involves operations in a crisis situation, and the second phase will be part of a defensive operation. Key elements of the exercise include the crossing of the Vistula River by allied troops and the movement of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), linking DR-24 with the exercise BRILLIANT JUMP-24.
This means that both wheeled and tracked military vehicles will also move on public roads throughout the Republic of Poland, as part of the exercise’s operational requirements. This comprehensive and strategic undertaking underscores NATO’s readiness and commitment to defending its member states in an increasingly complex global security environment.
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