NATO strengthens its Response Force

Stoltenberg

Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, press briefing after day 1 of the meeting of deference ministers, 24 June 2015. Verbatim text:

– “First, we decided to increase further  the strength and capability of the NATO Response Force, including its Air, Maritime and Special Operations components. All together the enhanced NATO Response Force will consist of up to 40,000 personnel. This represents a substantial increase from the previous level of 13,000*.

– “Second, we took measures to speed up our political and military decision making, while maintaining political control. This includes the authority for our Supreme Commander (SACEUR) to alert, stage, and prepare our troops to be ready to go once the political decision is made. We also approved a new concept of advance planning. Detailed advance planning and rapid decision making are two sides of the same coin. They mean we are able to respond more rapidly and more effectively to threats, wherever they may come from.

– “Third, we finalized the size and composition of the six small headquarters we are setting up in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. They will each consist of around 40 people and will play a key role in planning exercises and assisting potential reinforcements. We will also consider setting up more such headquarters in other NATO countries. Several allies have offered during the meeting to host such small headquarters.

– “Finally, we have decided to set up a new Standing Joint Logistic Headquarters. This will enable us to move forces faster across the territory of our alliance with the necessary supplies, equipment and transportation.

“All these steps will contribute to a far-reaching adaptation of NATO’s military posture in response to the changed security environment. At the same time, we are carefully addressing the implications of what Russia is doing, including its nuclear activities. And we are also developing how we deal with hybrid threats, including by working closely with the European Union.

“Let me be clear: we do not seek confrontation. And we do not want a new arms race. We want to keep our nations safe. And faced with many challenges from many directions, we need to be prepared. This is our job, we have already achieved a lot.  Our Interim Very High Readiness Force, led by Germany, the Netherlands and Norway is now operational. We saw it in action in western Poland just last week. Next year, this spearhead force, led by Spain, would be available to respond rapidly to any contingency.  All together, seven allies will assume the lead of this new force in the coming years.

“I welcome the significant announcements made by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, on the prepositioning of U.S. equipment and the substantial enabler support for our High Readiness Forces, including transport aircraft, air-to-air refuelling, Special Forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Together with the wide-ranging contribution of European allies, and the further offers of enablers and forces we heard today, the American commitment completes the picture of a truly transatlantic effort to reinforce our collective defence.

“All our efforts to adapt the alliance must be funded. In Wales, allies made a serious commitment to increase defence spending over the coming decade. We assessed initial progress during our meeting today. The picture is mixed. While some progress has been made, we need to see more. I welcome that every single ally stressed the importance of this pledge, and outlined the steps they are taking to meet the pledge.

“We also took important decision to support partners. We have endorsed the Defence Capacity Building package to help Moldova to enhance its defence and security institutions. We look forward to finalising as soon as possible NATO’s defence capacity building support to Iraq as well.

* [The original strength of the NATO Response Force was 25,000. This was later reduced to 13,000 as allies said they could not earmark such high numbers of troops for the NRF, HdV]

Over Hans de Vreij

Dutch journalist. Former correspondent in Brussels, Geneva, Prague, East Berlin.
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