During the Cold War, NATO, led by the United States, and the Warsaw Pact, led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), maintained vast numbers of military forces in Central Europe, facing each other along what Winston Churchill labeled as an Iron Curtain. On the western side, in addition to these conventional forces, several NATO allies also maintained what were called “stay-behind networks,” intended to remain within territory potentially over-run by Soviet forces in a war.
These networks were established to remain within Soviet occupied territories, to conduct sabotage and other guerrilla type activities against Soviet forces, and to send intelligence to NATO allies. The networks were intended to engage in resistance against a Soviet occupation. Upon the dissolution of the USSR, these stay-behind networks were completely dismantled, due to the perception that the threat had disappeared with the end of the Cold War.
In the 21st century, Russia, which had been the core of the former USSR, became resurgent and began to re-assert its power and influence in and over several former Soviet Republics. In 2008, Russia seized the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In 2014, Russia seized the Crimea from Ukraine and continues to support separatist activities in Eastern Ukraine. These aggressive acts, coupled with additional aggressive Russian behavior toward the Baltic nations, prompted the 2014 U.S. European Reassurance Initiative, renamed the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) in 2017. This was an initiative of the Obama administration in 2014, which was included in the Department of Defense’s FY 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget request to Congress.
Since FY 2015, the initiative has provided funding in support of five lines of effort: (1) Increased Presence, (2) Exercises (e.g., Exercise BALTOPS is an annual, multinational maritime exercise focused on interoperability, maritime security, and cooperation among Baltic Sea and regional partners) and Training, (3) Enhanced Prepositioning, (4) Improved Infrastructure, and (5) Building Partnership Capacity. Additionally, at NATO’s 2016 summit in Warsaw, the United States sponsored and NATO adopted the enhanced forward presence (EFP) program to expand the number of NATO participants forward deploying troops into the Baltic NATO allies on a rotational basis. This resulted in a continuing NATO program whereby the United States rotates a forward deployed battalion size Army presence in northeastern Poland, near the Suwalki Corridor, while the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany rotate similar-sized elements in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, respectively. These sponsoring nations rotate their troops on a heel-to-toe basis approximately every six months, resulting in a seamless continuous presence.
Concurrently, United States Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) began its concept exploration of resistance, as it recognized that the forward deployed NATO conventional forces were not adequate to defeat a major incursion. SOCEUR then collaborated with the Baltic NATO allies Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as with other allies and partners in seminars and workshops, to relearn what had been forgotten from the previous stay-behind organizations of Western Europe, to add new knowledge, and to develop a practical and effective Resistance Concept.
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“ROC(K) Solid Preparedness: Resistance Operations Concept in the Shadow of Russia”, by Otto Fiala and Ulrica Pettersson, PRISM, Vol. 8, No. 4, National Defense University Press, June 2020.
COL (R) O. Fiala, PhD, JD is the author of the Resistance Operating Concept at SOCEUR. Ulrica Pettersson PhD, is an Associate Professor at Swedish Defence University.
This article was first published in PRISM on June 11, 2020. Re-posted by SOF News with the permission of the PRISM editorial staff.
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Image: From the article.