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TridentJuncture2015:NATOandtheJointWarfareLearningCurve
PostedonNovember2,2015

by Paul Pryce. Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. With degrees in
political science from universities on both sides of the pond, he has previously worked in conflict
resolution as a Research Fellow with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as an infantryman in the
Canadian Forces. His current research interests include African security issues and NATORussia
relations.

One of the largest joint exercises in NATOs history will soon come to an end on
November 6. Since the start of the 2015 edition of Trident Juncture on
September 28, approximately 36,000 troops from 30 countries have
participated, along with involvement from the United Nations (UN), the
European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), and a multitude of aid agencies.
Under the direction of Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, which is also
responsible for leading the NATO Rapid Reaction Force, most of the activities
associated with this exercise were held on the territory of Portugal, Spain, and
Italy.

Some observers have made exorbitant claims that the scale and scope of Trident Juncture 15 is sabrerattling
directed toward other international actors like the Russian Federation. Such assertions are inconsistent with
what has actually transpired during the exercise, however. Air assets during Trident Juncture were stationed at
the Spanish airbases of Zaragoza, Albacete, and Palma de Mallorca, as well as the Italian airbases at Trapani,
Pisa, and Decimomannu. Some of these same facilities also played host to NATO air assets during Operation
Unified Protector, NATOs 2011 response to civil conflict in Libya. Many of the scenarios apparently simulated
during the exercise also entailed a largescale response to a rapidly developing humanitarian crisis in the Sahel
region, which is why humanitarian organizations figured so prominently.

Further evidence of this humanitarian connection can be found in an exercise held earlier this year by NATO.
On 2027 April and 815 May, Trident Jaguar 2015 was hosted by the NATO Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger,
Norway to assess the joint warfare command capabilities of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Italy and involved
simulating a NATO response to a humanitarian crisis and asymmetric warfare in a failing state environment.
As such, it is apparent that subsequent editions of both Trident Jaguar and Trident Juncture may see much
greater focus on preparing NATO for shortterm interventions into complex intrastate conflicts in the
Mediterranean and Sahel regions, such as Burkina Faso, which still struggles with instability following the end
of Blaise Compaors 27 year rule, or Mali, which is under threat from militant Islamist elements in its north.

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1/29/2016 TridentJuncture2015:NATOandtheJointWarfareLearningCurve|Offiziere.ch

ComparingNATOandRussianmilitaryexcercices.

The misconception that Trident Juncture is part of some new Cold War posturing may stem in part from the
focus of the 2014 edition. Trident Juncture is in fact an annual exercise, previously known as JOINTEX from
2010 to 2013, which exhibits a different area of focus each year in the development of NATO joint warfare
capabilities. Trident Juncture 14, which was held on 817 November 2014, involved a total of 1,255 troops,
took place largely on Polish territory, and featured scenarios admittedly similar to the hybrid warfare seen in
the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. This could have understandably left observers with the impression
that NATO was rehearsing for the defence of Poland or the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
against a hypothetical Russian invasion.

With regard to the training outcomes of Trident Juncture 15, there are two principal categories. On the one
hand, there are the operational and tactical levels, which taken together could be said to have improved
commensurate with the opportunities to practice useful skills in a simulation environment. For example, the
Spanish Civil Guard was able to escort approximately 230 convoys in the course of Trident Juncture, developing
core skills that could be employed in actual future operations. On the other hand, this exercise offered
opportunities at the strategic level to test assumptions about NATO joint warfare capabilities. Much has been
written on the challenges of integrating humanitarian groups and aid agencies into peacebuilding or
peacemaking missions, as well as the difficulties militaries experience in assuming humanitarian environments
where conflict is still to some degree present. Trident Juncture 15 allowed the Alliance to not only develop its
staff officers but also experiment with how well the lessons of Afghanistan, Iraq, and more recent conflicts like
Mali can inform future cooperation with aid agencies.

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NATO Trident Juncture Excercise in Spain

Video: Members of the Baltic Battalion pass through decontamination procedures after a simulated CBRN attack.


On that last point, the NATO Centre of Excellence on CivilMilitary Cooperation (CIMIC COE) in The Hague,
Netherlands truly shined during the exercise. Staff from that centre, which seeks to enhance NATO doctrine
and practice on civilmilitary relations, met with various military and civilian personnel in Spain, Portugal, and
Italy to observe how relationships were formed and to identify areas for future improvement. This could
further improve the impact of Trident Juncture 16, thus ensuring cooperation is seamless on exercise and in
the field. A breakdown in communication during an actual humanitarian crisis could undermine the efficiency
of the international communitys response or even risk the lives of military and civilian personnel in the field.
It could be argued that a lack of civilmilitary cooperation has contributed to the seriousness of the
humanitarian situation experienced by refugees and migrants arriving in Europe. The heavyhanded and at
times disjointed response by the Hungarian authorities to the ongoing refugee crisis demonstrates that current
NATO members lack core competencies in civilmilitary relations, let alone prospective members like
Macedonia.

In this sense, although Trident Juncture is taking place in the Mediterranean, the lessons learned from the 2015
edition are very applicable to security challenges experienced in the heart of Europe itself. The degree to
which European members of NATO will integrate these lessons into their doctrines and operating procedures
remains to be seen. Certainly, nonEuropean participants like Canada seem to be taking Trident Juncture 15
very seriously; in parallel with the activities in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, a 24/7 command post exercise is
being hosted in Meaford, Ontario that will see 1,000 Canadian troops trained on socalled Multinational Joint
Integrated Task Force (MJITF) capabilities. Staff officers alone will not win the day in NATOs next
humanitarian intervention, but the priority the Canadian Armed Forces has placed on joint warfare shows it
will be ahead of the learning curve when that day comes.

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1/29/2016 TridentJuncture2015:NATOandtheJointWarfareLearningCurve|Offiziere.ch

4th LAR Kicks Off Exercise Trident Juncture 15 With A Bang

Marines from 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve, train on range at Alverez de Sotomayor in Almeria, Spain on October 27,

2015. The Marines are training to improve their skills during exercise Trident Juncture and to increase interoperability with NATO allied forces.

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About Paul Pryce


Paul Pryce is Director of Social Media at the Centre for International Maritime Security and also serves as a Research Analyst
with the NATO Council of Canada's Maritime Nation Program. Holding degrees from the University of Calgary and Tallinn
University, he has previously worked in conflict resolution as a diplomatic aide with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and as
an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.
View all posts by Paul Pryce

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