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NATO Set for Major Expansion

Alliance tries to allay concerns of unpreparedness in the face of Russia’s aggressive European policy.

10 November 2017

NATO defense ministers have decided to expand the alliance’s operations in what Canada’s National Post says is a move unprecedented since the Cold War.

 

Meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, the ministers decided to establish two new commands, for a total of nine. One command would focus on the North Atlantic or the Arctic, where Russia is also boosting its military and civilian presence, NATO officials told The Wall Street Journal last month, cited by Newsweek.

 

The defense ministers also approved a plan to improve tracking of Russian submarines in the Atlantic, moved to set up a new command dedicating to improving mobility of troops and supplies across Europe, and said cyberwarfare will plan a bigger role in NATO planning, National Post says.

 

These issues were flagged in a secret alliance report Germany’s Der Spiegel wrote about last month.

 

The report claimed NATO’s ability to respond to threats in Europe “has been atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

 

Logistical bottlenecks and shortages of materiel such as mobile bridges and rail cars contributed to a situation where the “overall risk to rapid reinforcement is substantial," the paper said.

 

The alliance could also conclude an agreement next year to permanently deploy anti-aircraft weapons in the Baltic countries or Poland, Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said Tuesday.

 

Speaking after a meeting in Helsinki of defense chiefs from 12 countries with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, Karoblis also called for NATO to strengthen maritime defenses in the Baltic region, Reuters reports.

 

“Air defense is one of the issues which we need to address. We also need to look at other domains, like NATO command structure reform, we need to move forward on all on these aspects,” he said.

 

The existing command structure is "at best, only partially fit for purpose and, while it has not been tested, would quickly fail if confronted with the full NATO Level of Ambition," using a term indicating a major military conflict, the secret NATO report argued.

 

“In other words, NATO is preparing for a possible war with Russia,” Der Spiegel concludes.

 

 

  • Around 3,500 U.S. troops and thousands of pieces of materiel were deployed in Eastern Europe last winter in one of the largest movements of U.S. forces in Europe since the Cold War.

 

  • The Pentagon last year shipped a sophisticated missile defense system to Romania. In a rebuff to Russian criticism, a NATO official said, "Our system is not directed against Russia. It is purely defensive and it will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrence,” Newsweek reports.

 

  • Montenegro became the 29th NATO member this year after a negotiating process that divided the country, with pro-Russia opposition parties bitterly opposing it. Prosecutors claim Moscow was behind an alleged attempt last year to kill the prime minister and establish a pro-Russia government.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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