Saber Strike-2018 not threat to Russia, Belarus, but warning against mistake – US military expert

Saber Strike-2018 is not a provocation of Russia but an exercise with allies; this is what normal deterrence business looks like, the US side states. Against the background of the military exercise involving about 18,000 soldiers from 19 countries, Belsat TV interviewed Ray Wójcik, a former military attache of the US Embassy in Warsaw and now the Director of the Warsaw office of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)

CEPA is a non-profit, non-partisan thinktank based in Washington DC. The Center focuses on security issues on the eastern flank of NATO as well as on energy security and information warfare.

Ray Wójcik, photo by Waldemar Młynarczyk,

Belsat: What is the main purpose of the Saber Strike 2018? What sets this edition apart from previous Saber Strikes?

Ray Wójcik: Saber Strike is long-term longstanding exercise that US leads. It is directed from the Pentagon and handed over to US European Command. It is led by US army forces in Europe, their headquarters is in Wiesbaden, Germany. Saber Strike is a large committed exercise of US forces that demonstrates our reserve and our commitment to the sovereignty and security of the friends and allies we have on the eastern flank and really the rest of NATO. Saber Strike has been going on since 2010.

This year’s edition has much more and much faster and much more syncronised operations planned. It is combined with the series of other exercises that are going on in the region. So, concurrently, Baltic operations, or large naval exercises going on on the Baltic, additionally Swift Response, which is another US exercise which has a global response force <…> It also includes two other national exercises of Lithuania and Latvia; they are included in the same time frame as Saber Strike. Overall, Sabre Strike is 18,000 soldiers, which a little larger that last year’s footprint. This year’s edition will focus on response, reinforcement, logistics, C2, engineering and aviation operations.

Belsat TV news show Prasviet (World and Us) about Saber Strike-2018 (ENG subs)

Belsat: Why are so many soldiers being involved? What can you say about the scenario of these drills – why are they moving from Germany to Poland and Lithuania?

Ray Wójcik: One of the key features of this exercise (like any exercise, really) is to use it as a test bed, to test our capabilities, to see what needs to be changed, e.g. innovating on equipment front, infrastructure front, legality front. Freedom of movement, mobility is one of the major areas the US is being focused on for the last few years. Speaking about moving of the 2nd Stryker regiment from Vilseck (Germany) through Poland up into the Baltic to the Suwalki corrifor area, I should say that our major objective is to accomplish this swiftly and smoothly. Also, other forces will be moving through this Suwalki corridor area, for example, the 12th Mechanised Division or rapidly send Task Force from Szczecin to eastern Poland – for the first time Poland is sending forces from the West to the East in a large exercise. So, another capability-mobility exercise. Also, this is combined with air cover, air operations including our combat aviation brigade which is a part of this.

Belsat: What does the presence of US army mean to Poland?

Ray Wójcik: For Poland and Baltics, the exercise again demonstrates US commitment to the region, to the sovereignty of these nations by deterring aggresion. What we want to get from this exercise is to enhance ability to syncronise operations, communications, syncronise our movement and therefore demonstrate that we are serious about security in this region, we are serious about the sovereignty of the nations in this region.

Saber Strike-2018. Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania. Photo by Sgt. Gregory T. Summers,

Belsat: In this context, what place does NATO give to Belarus?

Ray Wójcik: Belarus is not part of the exercise, neither is Russia. There is a standard notification process that the US and NATO are extremely transparent in our exercise program. All apropriate notifications have been done. If Belarus or Russia have applied to observe Saber Strike there will be more than welcome to do that, but they are not part of the exercise. If Belarus (and Russia) look at the exercise, they could realise that this is not a threat to anybody in the region, but this is the demonstration of capabilities showing that we can respond and reinforce on short notice.

Belsat: What changes could be expected after the upcoming NATO summit?

Ray Wójcik: As for the NATO summit, I don’t have all the details of the major official themes, but we’ve heard one of the major discussion points is again ‘response and reinforcement’. So, the establishment of two new major four-star commands may be sort of unveiled at the NATO summit. One of them will be in Germany and the other in the US which s also a command for NATO looking at protection of sea lines and communications. Apropos the one in Germany, its major responsibility will be help in bringing reinforcements from North America in case of a NATO emergency or support large exercises like Saber Strike.

Interoperability exercise at Saber Strike 18, Bemowo Piskie, Poland. Photo by Spc. Alan Prince,

Belsat: What can you say about Russia’s reaction to Saber Strike?

Ray Wójcik: It has been going on since 2010. We are doing more sophisticated types of operations, we are focused on speed of response, speed of decision, speed of reinforcement. But there is nothing that should come as a surprise to Russia or Belarus. One of the major elements is Сommand and Сontrol (С2) specifically focused on the multinational core.

Belsat: Could you balance the US army presence in Europe for the previous year?

Ray Wójcik: The summary is US and NATO are committed to this region. Security of NATO, NATO nations, our partners is absolutely a bed rock of our commitment. The US and our partners in NATO demonstrate the exercises are true so that no one should make a mistake about how we think about security in this region., photos by