Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credit: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP 5:57 p.m., January 18, 2024

During a ceremony in Lille, France took command of a multinational NATO land force, of up to 120,000 men, for a period of one year.

“The war in Ukraine reminds us that we must be ready to use all our forces to deter our enemy,” General Gaulin underlined during the ceremony. 

France took command on Thursday during a ceremony in Lille for one year of a multinational NATO land force of up to 120,000 men, likely to be deployed in the event of an alert concerning one of its members.

Lieutenant General Emmanuel Gaulin, commander of the France Rapid Reaction Corps (CRR-Fr), based in Lille (north), received from Brigadier General Arslan of the Turkish CRR the pennant symbolizing the transmission of this alert, effective since the beginning of January.

“The role of the CRR is to intervene as NATO’s strategic reserve”

"The war in Ukraine (...) reminds us that we must be ready, ready to put all our strength into our collective deterrence efforts, to dissuade our enemy, our adversary, from disturbing the peace", underlined General Gaulin during the ceremony, warning that "anything is possible, even the unthinkable."

The CRR-Fr has around 450 soldiers of 14 nationalities.

It is the only multinational headquarters of the Army, operational and deployable, which carries out missions for France, NATO and the European Union.


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In 2022, the CRR-Fr had already taken command for NATO of the NRF, the reaction force of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, involving the deployment of 20,000 men.

After this alert in 2022, the CRR-Fr “adapted its processes to gain reactivity and be able to fight 24/7 for six months in a high-intensity conflict”, according to a press release from the Staff.

“The role of the CRR is to intervene as a strategic reserve for NATO,” General Gaulin explained to journalists.

“Ukraine is a huge change: war has returned to Europe whereas before, we were more involved in stabilization operations or on other continents, facing adversaries who were not necessarily state-based and whose weapons were less sophisticated” , he stressed.

NATO's founding treaty enshrines the principle of collective defense, according to which any attack against one of the member countries - 31 today - is supposed to result in a collective response from the organization.

50 warships, 80 aircraft and 1,100 combat vehicles 

NATO announced Thursday the launch next week of a vast military exercise, the largest "in decades", which will last several months and involve some 90,000 Alliance soldiers.

“This will be a clear demonstration of our unity, our strength and our determination to protect each other,” declared the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (Saceur), American General Christopher Cavoli, during a press conference, as the two years since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine approach.


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This exercise will take the form of a conflict scenario against an “adversary of comparable size”, according to NATO terminology, thus designating Russia without naming it.

It will notably include the reinforcement on the European continent of troops "from North America", explained General Cavoli.

Some 50 warships, 80 aircraft and 1,100 combat vehicles of all kinds will take part.

This is the most important "war game" since the "Reforger" exercise in 1988, then in the middle of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Atlantic Alliance.

“This is a record in terms of the number of soldiers,” said Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, head of the NATO military committee, which brings together heads of state, during the same press conference. majority of the 31 member countries of the organization.

Since the launch of the large-scale Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 22, 2022, the Atlantic Alliance has considerably strengthened its defenses on the Eastern Front, sending thousands of men there.

On the ground in Ukraine, Russian ground forces suffered very severe damage, said Rob Bauer, stressing, however, that the Russian navy and air force remained “considerable” forces.