The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the Polish army to change its plans. The biggest Polish-led joint exercise dubbed Anakonda that is conducted on the territory of Poland every two years will be modified, but its final shape and date are still unknown.
According to the Polish Ministry of National Defense, the maneuvers will involve approximately 4000 soldiers from the Army, Air Forces and the Navy. Elements of the national civil defense system will also be part of the exercise.
Initially it was planned that nine thousand soldiers from Poland and ten allied countries would participate in Anakonda 2020. The initial plan also suggested that this edition of Anakonda should be linked with other military exercises in the European region including the Swedish maneuvers Aurora 20. The Swedish army, however, cancelled Aurora 20 exercise in April.
Anakonda 2020 drills were supposed to be held along with American Defender Europe 2020 that was slated to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years. Around 20000 U.S.-based troops with 13 thousand units of military equipment were to take part in Defender. The problem is that it was also greatly reduced following the decision to suspend all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe. As a result around four thousand American soldiers reached Poland.
Some NATO experts estimate that the real number of participants in Defender Europe 20 could exceed 100000 soldiers. According to the Vienna document (2011) the country (or a group of countries) that hold military exercises involving at least 9000 soldiers are obliged to inform other states in case “certain military activities” take place. It is also mandatory according to this document to invite international observers to a military exercise in case the number of participants is more than 13000 soldiers.
It seems that Covid-19 is used as a pretext to modify the maneuvers Defender Europe 2020 in the way not to invite international observers. The number of soldiers involved in the exercises is purposely reduced. So it is quite possible that in reality the number of troops might be even ten times more. It is doubtful, however, whether such measures can prevent unintended escalation or even military incidents.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.