Scruffy, yellowish-brown buildings are bunched around a long courtyard; portable toilets and generators have been set up on the dusty ground beside. Inside, military-grade laptops, the kind that don’t break if you drop them, are arrayed along a series of tables, their cables spooling off onto the floor. Men from different countries, some dressed in camouflage, talk in low voices. A large map of Europe’s Baltic coast has been projected onto one of the walls, with different colored markers scattered across it.
This, dear readers, is the transatlantic alliance. But this is not the transatlantic alliance in theory, the one people are discussing right now, with so much concern, from Washington to Tallinn to Montreal. This is the transatlantic alliance in practice. It’s the temporary headquarters of Trojan Footprint, the largest NATO special forces training exercise in recent memory, an operation involving more than 2,000 conventional and unconventional troops from more than a dozen countries, including Germany, Britain, Canada, Belgium, and even Sweden. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and that’s partly the point: it was set up discreetly, outside a nondescript Polish village. Now that it’s over, the portable toilets and generators will be removed, the men and the laptops will go home.
This exercise was sort of undercover — I’ve been asked not to tell you the name of the Polish village — but not entirely. The 10th Special Forces Group, the Green Berets, who were running the operation, are happy for potential aggressors to know it took place. In particular, they are happy for the large country just to the east of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to know they are planning and practicing for all possible scenarios, up to and including fending off a full-scale invasion. [Continue reading…]