Poland took over leadership of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) on Jan. 1, 2020, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg thanking Poland for its role leading the VJTF, also known as the NATO “picket”.
“The VJTF, our picket, is a significant contribution to our mutual defense and a strong presentation of Poland’s capabilities. These forces can be immediately deployed to defend any allied country from any kind of threat,” Stoltenberg said.
The VJTF was established after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 as a method of deterrence against Russian aggression. Soldiers who comprise the VJTF are in the highest state of readiness and delegated based on a rotation system of member states.
Although these soldiers remain in their native units, they must be able to transfer within 48 to 72 hours to any location.
The main body of the VJTF in 2020 will be the Polish 21st Podhale Rifle Highland Brigade, supported by units from 12th Mechanized Division, the 3rd Air Transport Wing and the Military Gendarmerie.
Experts for logistics and anti-chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialists are also part of the fighting force.
According to NATO data, the “picket” will be made up of approximately 5,000 troops, 3,000 of which will be Poles. Units from Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Turkey, and the UK are also present.
The United States has declared support for the VJTF with air force units and other military resources.
The VJTF is a part of the 40,000 strong NATO Response Force. The leading brigade of the VJTF comes from a different country each year to lessen the burden of having forces in a state of constant high military readiness.
In 2018, Italy held leadership and in 2019, the force was led by Germany.