On Sunday (1 January 2023), Germany takes the lead of NATO’s highest-readiness military force, placing thousands of troops on standby and ready to deploy within days. NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) was created in 2014 at the core of a strengthened NATO Response Force, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and crises in the Middle East. Germany takes over from France, which led the force in 2022. In response to Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine in February this year, NATO deployed elements of the VJTF to Romania on the unit’s first ever collective-defence mission.
“Germany is an important Ally and we thank Germany for leading the VJTF in 2023. As Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine continues to threaten peace and security in Europe, there must be no doubt about NATO’s resolve to protect and defend every inch of Allied territory. The VJTF is NATO’s first responder and a key part of our collective defence. Germany’s leadership is a strong display of its commitment and capabilities”, said NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) is the highest-readiness element of NATO Response Force (NRF). VJTF leadership and membership rotate annually among Allies. In 2023, VJTF land forces will comprise around 11,500 thousand troops, with the Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 at its core. In total, nine NATO Allies (Belgium, Czechia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia) will contribute. Among the major units are Germany’s Panzerbataillon 393, Artillerielehrbataillon 345, Versorgungsbataillon 131 and Transporthubschrauberregiment 30. For the first time, Germany also leads the VJTF’s designated Special Forces command.
The NRF is a high-readiness force comprising land, air, sea and special forces units capable of being deployed quickly. Until February 2022, when NATO activated it in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, units assigned to the NRF had only been used to assist with disaster relief and security at high-profile security events. On 25 February 2022 after a NATO meeting, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) was activated for the defense of members of the alliance, for the first time. The NRF currently comprises up to 40,000 troops and will be increased to over 300,000 troops. It includes units from several countries that do not belong to NATO: non-member partners, Finland, which first contributed forces in 2008; Sweden, 2013; Ukraine, 2014; and Georgia, 2015.