NATO has announced its intention to increase the number of its high-readiness forces following what Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described as increased and direct Russian threats to European security. The aim of the “new military plan” is to “radically modernize” the bloc’s eastern defences, according to Mr Stoltenberg.
Mr Stoltenberg presented the expansion plans at the NATO summit in Madrid, describing the move as “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War”.
The plan now involves placing more than 300,000 troops at high readiness to send a clear message of deterrence to Russia from attacking other NATO allies.
Mr Stoltenberg said: “I expect them to be ready next year, we’ll make the decision now and then we’ll start the implementation and then they’ll be available and ready next year. is the plan.”
Troops would be based in their home countries but would be “preassigned to specific territories” to be ready to reinforce defenses there, with heavy equipment and supplies already in place if needed.
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Mr. Stoltenberg said: “This combination of these three factors – pre-positioned equipment, more forward deployed forces and high readiness forces based in the homeland but ready to deploy – are, at least for the land element , the most important elements of how we’re going to build deterrence and defence.”
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said new security tensions in the Baltic countries, especially changes in neighboring Belarus, “don’t give us time to react”, as Russian troops “could be easily deployed very near our border.
How many rapid reaction troops does NATO currently have?
NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force is a combination of land, sea and air assets designed to be deployed quickly when needed.
Many of these forces were placed on “high readiness” for the first time after Russia attacked in February.
Under new plans to be approved this week at the Madrid summit, NATO’s response force will grow to “well over 300,000”, and the allies will place even more weapons in the east.
Mr Stoltenberg said the model would include “more pre-positioned equipment and stockpiles of military supplies” as well as “more forward deployed capabilities, such as air defence” and “strengthened command and control”.
He said: “I am convinced that Moscow, President Putin, understands our collective security guarantees, understands the consequences of an attack on a NATO-allied country,” he said.
“This will trigger a response from across the Alliance. And to underpin that message, we are strengthening NATO’s presence.”