Coronavirus threatens NATO combat readiness

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U.S. European Command is already cutting back on its plans for the large-scale combat exercise on the continent that kicks off this spring.

The decision was made to curtail the exercise in order to deal with the spread of the novel form of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, that already forced the U.S. Army Europe commander to self-quarantine himself earlier this week.

US Commander in Europe Christopher Cavoli and several members of his headquarters could become infected with the new COVID-19 coronavirus.

Cavoli may have been exposed to infection “at a recent conference.” This is probably a military conference with the participation of the commanders of the land forces in Wiesbaden (Germany).

Upon returning from a military conference, one of the highest generals of the armed forces of Poland, Yaroslav Mika, passed a positive test for coronavirus.

Also, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Italy, General Salvatore Farina, became infected with the coronavirus and is “undergoing treatment in a military hospital”.

“After careful review of the ongoing Defender-Europe 20 exercise activities and in light of the current coronavirus outbreak, we will modify the exercise by reducing the number of U.S. participants,” EUCOM officials said in a press release. “Activities associated with the exercise will be adjusted accordingly and we’ll work closely with Allies and partners to meet our highest priority training objectives.”

The exercise mostly involves Army personnel, including roughly 20,000 U.S. soldiers who were supposed to deploy from the continental United States to support activities across 10 European countries. The major participating units include soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division and 82nd Airborne Division.

Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa deferred to EUCOM leadership regarding what units and how many participants were being reduced. Those details have yet to be released by the command, however.

“As we work through the arrangements with our Allies and partners, we’ll provide additional updates,” EUCOM officials said in the release.

Gear has already been trickling onto the continent at select ports. Equipment belonging to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division was rolling off ships at the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, on Feb. 20, as part of the opening salvo of the largest deployment of soldiers from mainland United States to Europe in a quarter century.

EUCOM officials did not say in their release what the reduction will look like, but the virus’ spread also forced the command and Norway to cancel the large scale Arctic exercises known as Cold Response.

That exercise included roughly 15,000 troops from the U.S., Norway and eight other allied countries. Roughly 1,500 U.S. troops were scheduled to participate in the Arctic exercise from all four service branches.

You should pay attention to the fact that “several units on the Defender-Europe 20” should arrive in the Baltic States from Italy, where quarantine has been introduced throughout the country and the chief of the Italian General Staff is in the hospital now. The number of people infected with coronavirus in France, Spain, and especially in Germany, who also plan to participate in maneuvers, is increasing. In particular, 20,000 American troops are now arriving from the United States on airplanes to the Alliance’s exercises in Germany.

If one of them is infected with a coronavirus, quarantine will have to be set up based on large military groups – companies, battalions, etc. In such conditions, it is very difficult or impossible to perform real combat missions.

In addition, military exercises Defender-Europe 20 is a direct threat to civilians who are not participating in military maneuvers.

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