He is the link between the EU and the NBG
“Prepared for everything”

“We shall be able to commence an assignment within a radius of 6,000 kilometres from Brussels within a timeframe of ten days – if it is further away it will take longer. But there are no geographic limits for the Nordic Battlegroup,” says Bengt Andersson, who will manage deployment operations at military-strategic level from the headquarters in Northwood outside London.

“When I was offered the position of Operational Commander, this came as a considerable surprise,” says Bengt Andersson. “That is the best position you can have in this sort of context.” Photo: Niklas Ehlén/Försvarets Bildbyrå

Major General Bengt Andersson is Operational Commander and Head of the Multinational Staff, Operation Headquarters (OHQ), which is to manage the NBG’s deployment by, among other things, converting political directives from Brussels into military plans and orders.

A staff of some 40 people is already operational – half at the headquarters in Stockholm and half on location in England. Personnel from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Ireland, the “fifth” NBG country, are included, in exercises and for any NBG deployment.

“It is important to have a team already in England which can ensure that computers, connections and routines function. Ten days’ deployment time places enormous demands on our organisation,” says Bengt Andersson.

When activated, the staff increases to about 120 persons from various EU countries, and all operations are moved to Northwood in England.

Political directives
A military contribution from the EU can be initiated by a single member country. The decision is taken in the Council of the European Union, which is assisted by the Political and Security Committee (PSC) in Brussels, which is the central advisory body for the EU’s crisis management. Thus, for example, the EU’s deployment which will soon be made in Chad, was a French initiative.

Here, among other things, the issue of whether this was an assignment for a Battlegroup was discussed, for example, one of the two groups which are now in a state of readiness (led by Greece and Italy respectively). But the EU decided to implement deployment outside of the Battlegroup concept.

“From the PSC we get political and strategic directives for deployment. At OHQ, we work out the operational plans regarding the military goals which shall be achieved. This is done in close cooperation with Karl Engelbrektson, who is the Force Commander, and his staff, who will be in the deployment area,” says Bengt Andersson.

“When the assignment has commenced, we report daily to the Chairman of the EUMC in Brussels, but it is the Operational Commander who is responsible for the deployment, and who commands it from the headquarters in Northwood.”

Conceivable deployment areas
The EU has drawn up a monitoring list of some 30 areas in the world which might become relevant for deployment.

At the political level, the five countries which are included in the Nordic Battlegroup have concentrated the list and given Bengt Andersson and that part of the staff which is already operational, the assignment of carrying out especially detailed studies of five countries which are at present considered to be the most relevant areas.

“It is very important work for us, of the staff, to monitor developments in actual states and thus be able to prepare any deployment at an early stage,” says Bengt Andersson.

Ministers at exercise
The five NBG countries’ defence ministers met Bengt Andersson and other experts at two one-day seminars to discuss various military issues which might get to the desks of the politicians.

“It can, for example, be about what might occur in the case of an event involving major damage or politically sensitive input.

“Today’s work in the staff will continue after 1 January when the period of preparedness for deployment commences, with monitoring of various crisis areas, collection of facts involving conceivable areas of deployment and continued training in routines, staff work and planning.

“But if there is a strong indication of deployment, or a decision, the entire operation will be moved to England and the rest of the staff will be activated,” says Bengt Andersson.

Valuable experience
Work in building up an organisation such as the NBG has meant a great deal both nationally and multinationally, according to Bengt Andersson:

“The NBG is the engine of the redeployment of the Swedish input effort. Without it, everything would have taken much longer. The fact that we have coordinated five European countries – six including England – has had a very big impact in Europe. We have also shown that it is also possible for a small nation to take responsibility for a battle group, a unit that has considerably more ability than a unit of equivalent strength normally has.”

Text: Hans Axelsson