NATO strengthens its rapid reaction force and military support for Ukraine


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 27, 2022. NATO heads of state will meet for a NATO summit in Madrid from Tuesday 28 June. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)


NATO allies will decide at a summit this week to increase the strength of their quick reaction force from nearly eight to 300,000 troops as part of their response to an “era of strategic competition”, it said. Monday the secretary general of the military alliance.

The NATO Response Force (NRF) currently has around 40,000 soldiers who can deploy quickly if needed.

Coupled with other measures, including the deployment of forces to defend specific allies, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move was part of the “larger overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War”.

“These troops will exercise with the Home Defense Forces,” Stoltenberg said. “And they will become familiar with the local terrain, the facilities and our new pre-positioned stocks. So that they can respond smoothly and quickly to any emergency.”

In response to the Kremlin’s decision to go to war, US President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts agreed in February to send thousands of troops, backed by air and naval support, to protect nearby allies from Russia and Ukraine. The 30-nation organization decided at the time to send parts of the NRF and elements of a rapidly deployable advanced unit to the alliance’s eastern flank, marking the first time the force had been used in a defensive role.

Stoltenberg made the remarks at a press conference ahead of a NATO summit this week in Madrid, when the 30 allies are also expected to agree additional support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Stoltenberg said he expects the allies to make it clear that they view Russia “as the most significant and direct threat to our security.” At the summit, the allies will also decide to strengthen their battlegroups on NATO’s eastern flanks, he said.

In NATO’s new strategic concept, the alliance is also ready to address the security challenges posed by China for the first time, Stoltenberg said. In Madrid, the allies will discuss how to respond to the growing influence of Russia and China in their “southern neighbourhood”, he added.

Stoltenberg said allies will agree to provide additional military support to Ukraine when they meet in Spain, with NATO members expected to adopt an “enhanced comprehensive assistance package”, including deliveries of communications systems secure and anti-drone.

In the long term, Stoltenberg said the allies aim to help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era weaponry to modern NATO equipment. The world’s seven largest economies on Monday underlined their commitment to Ukraine for “however long it takes”.

Another central theme of the NATO summit will be the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NATO member Turkey has so far blocked applications, citing what it sees as the two countries’ soft approach to organizations Turkey considers terrorists, such as the Party Kurdistan Workers, or PKK.

Stoltenberg said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson agreed to meet on the sidelines of the summit on Tuesday.

Officials from the three countries intensified talks ahead of the NATO gathering in a bid to break the deadlock.

“My hope is that this dialogue can be successful and concluded in the near future, ideally before the summit,” Andersson said after talks with Stoltenberg in Brussels.

Turkey calls on Sweden and Finland to grant the extradition requests for persons wanted by the Turkish authorities. Ankara says the countries harbor members of the PKK as well as people it says are linked to a failed coup in 2016.

Turkey also wants assurances that restrictions on weapons imposed by the two countries during Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northern Syria will be lifted.

“I won’t make any promises, but I can assure you that we are actively working to ensure progress because Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO bids are historic,” Stoltenberg said.

Andersson said Sweden’s stance on the PKK is “clear” and that his country views the organization as a terrorist group. She added that Sweden’s anti-terrorism legislation was undergoing its most comprehensive overhaul in 30 years.

“In addition, constitutional amendments are being prepared which would help pave the way for criminalization or participation in terrorist organizations,” she said.

NATO has released new defense spending figures showing that US allies in Europe as well as Canada have increased their defense spending for an eighth consecutive year.

“By the end of the year, they will have invested well over an additional $350 billion since we agreed to our defense investment pledge in 2014,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO nations cut military budgets in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, but increased spending when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. That year, NATO allies nato have also committed to achieving a defense budget target of 2% of their gross domestic budget. produced by 2024.

“Nine allies now meet – or exceed – the 2% target. Nineteen allies have clear plans to reach it by 2024,” Stoltenberg said. “Two percent is increasingly seen as a floor, not a ceiling. We will also agree to invest more together in NATO.”


Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.


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Lynn A. Saleh