The Transatlantic Security Bond: Linking the United States and Europe Through Mutual Values and Interests

The transatlantic bond, linking Europe and the United States through mutual values and shared interests, is a constant factor in the diplomatic work I conduct every day in Vienna.  However, I recently had a rare chance to see the transatlantic partnership played out in a much more concrete way: with thousands of troops working together on a “battleground” in Germany. 

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of leading a delegation of ten fellow Ambassadors to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, on a visit to Saber Junction 2014 -- a weeks-long, world-class training exercise in Hohenfels, Germany.  Thousands of soldiers employed cutting-edge technology and operational equipment in this unparalleled training experience.  I was joined by the Ambassadors from Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Ukraine as we witnessed action on the "battleground" with soldiers from many of their countries participating.  The leader of the "good guys" in this year’s exercise was a colonel from Lithuania, and his Ambassador was proud to observe his excellent leadership.  This is the first time that a non-U.S. officer has led the exercise, so it was both a challenging and exciting time for the Lithuanians!  We also visited the opposing force command headquarters where we were briefed by a Romanian lieutenant colonel and his battalion, who as “the bad guys” were focused on putting up a fight that would provide maximum learning opportunities.

Over 6,000 personnel from 15 nations, plus the U.S., were involved in Saber Junction 14.  For many, this training built on previous exercise-type efforts, while for others, such as the Serbian soldiers we talked to, this was their first time participating in the exercise.  We welcome the full participation of Serbia and other such NATO partners in training opportunities.  One of the Slovenian military participants perfectly summed up why he felt the training was essential to his country, and his military: “We (the Slovenians) have never participated in a military exercise or operation that wasn’t multinational, or that didn’t heavily rely on our interoperability capacity.  The training that we receive here is essential to our ability to operate in that type of environment, and to fulfill our NATO mandates.”

After visiting with soldiers on the battlefield, we stopped for a lunch break with some of them.  I sat with the Latvian and Estonian ambassadors while several of their soldiers taught us how to warm up and eat an MRE, and which flavor of drink mix was the best.

For many of the Ambassadors -- including myself -- this was their first visit to a military training exercise.  Most of them had not seen a U.S. military base or training area.  The world-class facility at Hohenfels -- one of two maintained by the U.S. in Germany -- is just one example of the long-term investment we have made in European security.  On the same day that we had our visit, President Obama was in Tallinn where he gave a speech that underscored the unfailing commitment of the United States to our NATO treaty obligations, and to working with allies and partners to enhance readiness to confront shared challenges together. 

Postscript: In the days after our visit, as the exercise continued, a vehicle accident claimed the life of one of the Romanian soldiers participating.  The tragedy was a poignant reminder of the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make in order to be ready to protect our common transatlantic security.

About the Author: Daniel Baer serves as U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (USOSCE).

For more information, follow USOSCE on Facebook and Twitter.

Soldiers From NATO Countries Take Part in Battle Conducted Exercise Called "Saber Junction Exercise"
Posted by Daniel Baer
September 18, 2014

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