Multi-National Brigade Set to Deploy in Balkans

Article excerpt

Southeastern European nations train together for peace operations in the region

Military leaders from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania recently met in Washington to discuss the upcoming deployment of the South-Eastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG). The brigade plans to send a "force offer" to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by years end, according to civilian and military officials.

SEEBRIG was established in 1998 by the South-Eastern Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM), an informal group of the areas defense ministers. SEDM includes defense officials from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and the United States. The brigade represents seven of these nations, all except the United States, Slovenia and Croatia, which serve as observer nations.

The brigade's stated goal is to contribute to stability and security in a region known for conflict and tension, and to deploy for missions in support of the United Nations, NATO or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said officials. Though the brigade is open to deploying for "coalition of the willing," peacekeeping or humanitarian-support operations, it will not participate in "peace enforcement" operations, an official said.

"For the first actions, they want to maintain peace and help nations conduct normal business," rather than peace enforcement, "which is war," said Mircea Mocanu, Romania's assistant defense attach to the United States.

The United States is anxious to see the brigade deployed to assist in regional conflicts. "SEEBRIG is the flagship of the Southern Europe military defense. It has truly been a political success," said Maria Copson-Niecko, a European policy staff member in the office of the secretary of defense. "But without deployment, something is missing," she said.

A permanent staff headquarters for SEEBRIG, with rotating chairmen and military commanders from each participating nation, was established in 1999. It has 35 standing personnel, and can expand to approximately 150. The current headquarters are located in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and because of the brigade's rotation regulations, will move to Constanta, Romania in July of 2003.

The brigade adheres to NATO procedures and doctrine, said Turkish Col. Ali Demiral, the brigades current commander. Demiral reported that the brigade is building up to five battalion-- sized units, and once deployed, would provide a force of approximately 3,000 infantry soldiers.

According to planning documents, the structure consists of "four mechanized infantry battalions and one framework mechanized infantry regiment enforced with one infantry company and one mechanized company. …