The Pentagon is sending a company of Stryker vehicles to Bulgaria as part of a clear move to send a message of support to the key NATO ally and further strengthen deterrence efforts against a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"These troops will be departing Germany in coming days, and they will help ensure our readiness and interoperability with Bulgaria as our NATO ally," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told an audience in Brussels, Belgium at NATO headquarters.
Stryker Vehicles to Bulgaria
Reinforcing Bulgaria seems quite significant for a number of key reasons. As a key NATO ally bordering the Black Sea, Bulgaria is South of Ukraine and not likely to be in any invasion path chosen by Russia. However, Austin did also add in his remarks that, in addition to adding large numbers of Russian ground forces now assembled in Ukraine, Russia is also increasing its military presence in the Black Sea.
As a NATO ally with coastline along the Black Sea, Bulgaria could in fact be vulnerable to Russian missile or warship attacks from the ocean. Sending armed Strykers, known for their deployability and cross-terrain mobility, sends a clear message to Russia that, just like other NATO allies, Bulgaria will in fact be defended by the full power of NATO’s force.
In fact, Austin heavily emphasized NATO unity and was clear to indicate the alliance was unified and operating with a collective measure of resolve to uphold Article 5 of its Charter ensuring collective defense in the event of an attack on any member.
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There is yet another significant message potentially associated with the deployment of Strykers to Bulgaria, and it relates to mobility and deployability. It calls to mind an important Army and European exercise in 2015 called the Dragoon Ride. This event included an extensive deployment convoy traveling across the European continent to, among other things, conduct joint operations with NATO’s Eastern European allied forces such as the Czech Republic.
The convoy, which included Strykers, tactical trucks and other armored vehicles, traveled across a vast 1,800km journey spanning from Estonia in Eastern Europe to Germany.
The intent of the convoy, US Army officials told Warrior at the time, was to demonstrate an ability to mobilize and deploy US and allied forces quickly and efficiently throughout the European continent. During the Dragoon Ride, soldiers with the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment traveled from the Baltic states through Poland, the Czech Republic into Germany, connecting with allies along the way.
There is thus a strategically significant thread of continuity connecting these kinds of 2015 deployments with a current interest in fortifying deterrence efforts against Russia.
US Army Strykers and other NATO mechanized land warfare assets could very effectively deploy from Bulgaria Northward to reinforce Ukraine from its Southern border. Bulgaria borders Romania and might have an ability to access SouthEastern Ukraine through Moldava or reach SouthWestern Ukraine through Romania. Essentially, should there be a need to protect Romania or reinforce Ukraine’s Southern border, Strykers based in Bulgaria could be uniquely impactful.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.