The Turks lead the NATO Rapid Reaction Force. But the tensions remain.

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

After Germany, Poland and Italy, Turkey's turn has come to lead, from 1 January, the VJTF (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force), integrated into the NRF (NATO Response Force).

It is worth remembering that Ankara's foreign policy has raised - and continues to arouse - tensions within NATO. In addition to its interventions in Syria, Libya and even Azerbaijan, Turkey is strongly committed to the exploration of hydrocarbons in the areas claimed by Greece, questioning international law and blackmailing the European Union on migrants. This was the reason for a rather stormy meeting of Alliance foreign ministers in early December.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had raised his tone, accusing Ankara of "taking hostage" the defense plans envisaged by the Allies, in order to weaken their cohesion.

The plans would concern in particular the eastern flank of NATO, where several member countries fear Russian interference, especially after the Crimea affair and Moscow's support for separatists in Donbass, a region located in southeastern Ukraine, a country with the which Turkey is on excellent terms, as evidenced by the strong cooperation in the arms sector.

The VJTF is based on a multinational ground brigade, special forces, air and naval assets. Its role is to intervene at very short notice (2 to 3 days), should it be necessary to prepare the subsequent deployment of a first group of second rank forces (IFFG), made up of two multinational brigades.

In 2021, the bulk of the VJFT troops will be provided by the Turkish Army's 66th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, with approximately 4.200 troops out of a total force of 6.400. However, "Albania, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States will also provide unity," NATO said.

It should be emphasized that Turkey has invested heavily in this task force, especially as regards the planning of logistics and ammunition needs. Making available the latest acquisitions in terms of MBT, anti-tank missiles and artillery.

Photo: Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri