The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Friday activated a spearhead force created in the aftermath of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine eight years ago, marking the first time in alliance history that the quick response unit has been put into real-world action in Europe. The decision, announced after President Joe Biden and other allied heads of state met for an emergency summit on the crisis in Ukraine, means thousands of additional forces will be headed to the eastern part of the alliance. As NATO establishes this enhanced vigilance on the Alliance’s eastern flank, Allied military forces will posture and exercise to increase our readiness and interoperability.
The 5,000-strong unit, formally known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, is carved out of NATO’s larger response force of 40,000 troops. Both the spearhead unit and other elements of the response force will deploy, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. But not all 40,000 troops will mobilize at this time. NATO’s spearhead force is intended to respond to a crisis within about five days, but it is capable of deploying within 48 hours when there are signs of trouble. NATO’s response forces have all been at a higher level of alert for weeks as allies watched Russia’s mass troops around Ukraine’s border. The decision to mobilize the spearhead unit, currently led by the French with supporting German forces which require unanimous support for decisions.
The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that the Alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed. In addition to its operational role, the NRF can be used for greater cooperation in education and training, increased exercises, support for disaster relief, and better use of technology. The NRF consists of a highly capable joint multinational force able to react in a very short time to the full range of security challenges from crisis management to collective defense. NATO Allies decided to enhance the NRF in 2014 by creating a “spearhead force” within it, known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).
France takes the lead of NATO’s highest-readiness military force on 1 January 2022 for one year. The VJTF was created in 2014 in response to crises in the Middle East and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and is permanently available to move within days to defend any Ally. In 2022, the VJTF will comprise a multinational force of several thousand troops. The Franco-German brigade of 3,500 troops will serve as the core of the force, drawing on the 1st Infantry Regiment and the 3rd Hussar Regiment. Led by France’s Rapid Reaction Corps in Lille, the Franco-German brigade is a bi-national unit, underlining the strong bond between NATO Allies Germany and France. Other NATO countries, including Spain, Portugal, and Poland will also provide forces.