(VICE) In the wake of events in Ukraine, NATO has turned its attention towards countries that border the Russian Federation — attempting to boost its quick-response capabilities in Europe. In September, the alliance agreed to create a 5,000-strong rapid reaction Spearhead Force, which will be capable of deploying across the continent within 48-hours of a military incursion. VICE News joined several thousand NATO troops in western Poland, for the first deployment test of the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.”
According to the premise of the exercise, Poland and the Baltics were under threat from the fictional state of “Bothnia” — a master of conventional and hybrid warfare. NATO forces had been ordered to deploy, and quickly, to Poland.
During the deployment test, NATO’s top diplomat Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg flew in to watch its progress. He told VICE News that NATO was undertaking “the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”
While in Poland, VICE News filmed with non-governmental paramilitary groups, which are training young Polish people to defend their towns and cities in the event of a foreign-backed assault. Participation in paramilitaries has reportedly increased since Russia’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula.
We also traveled north, to visit the border that Poland shares with the heavily armed Russian territory of Kaliningrad. This spring, Poland built six high-tech watchtowers along the 125-mile border.