Spain will send some 800 more soldiers to reinforce the deployment of NATO in Eastern Europe | International

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Spain will send hundreds of soldiers to Slovakia and the Czech Republic (some 800 in total) to strengthen NATO's defense in eastern Europe against the Russian threat. The announcement was made by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, upon his arrival this Tuesday at the allied summit held in Vilnius, although he has not offered details.

"Spain, as a committed member [de la Alianza Atlántica]is going to announce the deployment of Spanish forces in Slovakia to reinforce the eastern front and we are going to reinforce the presence in Romania with a greater number of troops", said the president upon arrival at the summit of the allied leaders, accompanied by the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, José Manuel Albares and Margarita Robles.

The offer, according to government sources, consists of Spain assuming the leadership of the combat group deployed by NATO in Slovakia, currently led by the Czech Republic and in which Germany, Slovenia and the United States also participate; which will mean sending some 600 soldiers. In addition, Spain will support the multinational battalion stationed in Romania under French leadership, with approximately another 200 troops. It is not yet known which units they will come from, but it is known that they will belong to the Army and that the deployment, which is still in the initial planning phase, will take place in 2024.

This increase will mean doubling the presence of Spanish troops in Eastern Europe. Since 2017, Spain has participated with 650 Army troops —equipped with Leopard 2E and Pizarro battle tanks, among other material— in the NATO combat group in Latvia, led by Canada, within the framework of Operation Advanced Presence Reinforced (ePF). In addition, the Air Force has deployed an air surveillance radar in the vicinity of the Romanian city of Constanza with some 40 soldiers; and the Army, two Nasams anti-aircraft missile batteries in Amari (Estonia) and Lielvardes (Latvia), with about 100 soldiers each. Since 2006, on a temporary and rotating basis, Spain has deployed combat aircraft in aerial police missions in the Baltic republics and, in recent years, also in Romania and Bulgaria, within the framework of NATO operations. The increase in deployment in the East will mean a significant effort for the Spanish Army, which will be partly offset by the drastic reduction in the military presence in Mali, due to the lack of understanding between the EU and the Bamako military junta, supported by mercenaries and Russian military.

The creation of new allied combat groups in the countries of the southeastern flank (Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia) was decided at the allied summit in Madrid in June last year, to complete the deployment started in the Baltic republics and Poland as a consequence of the Russian annexation of Crimea.

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