By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2015 – NATO commanders are putting in place the infrastructure that will allow the alliance to adapt to new threats, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the press yesterday at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium.
Stoltenberg spoke alongside Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander, after NATO commanders briefed the secretary general on progress toward meeting the goals of the Wales Summit.
Both men noted the security environment in Europe has grown complicated and that the alliance must change to deal with these new threats. While the alliance continues the train, advise and equip mission in Afghanistan and the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo, it is changing to confront new issues.
Threats From East, South
“We see threats both from the East with the more aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine, [and] also from the South with violence and turmoil spreading to the Middle East and North Africa,” Stoltenberg said.
The answer to both challengers is a boost to collective security, he added.
The alliance is more than doubling the size of the NATO Response Force from 13,000 to 30,000 troops.
“We are setting up a new 5,000-strong quick reaction Spearhead Force, with some units ready to move within as little as 48 hours,” Stoltenberg said. “And we are also creating six command-and-control centers in the Baltic states and three other eastern allied states.”
‘Deliberative and Unified’ Changes
Breedlove said those moves are on track. “We’re in full swing moving forward with our assurance and our adaptation measures and these will make our alliance even more ready and responsive in the future,” the general said.
“The United States is sending 3,000 troops and equipment to the Baltic region for training,” Stoltenberg said. “And in the south, we are preparing to hold this autumn our biggest exercise for many years, expected to include over 25,000 troops in this exercise.” NATO also has ships exercising in the Black and Baltic seas, he added.
The measures are defensive, proportionate and in line with international commitments, the secretary general said.
Changing the alliance posture is tough, involved work, Breedlove said. “We are tackling these changes in a deliberative and unified fashion,” he said. “I’ve spent many years serving among our European allies and I’m pleased to say that I’ve never seen a greater degree of cohesion, resolve and determination to ensure that NATO is ready to meet our future challenges, and I’m confident this will continue as we secure our future together.”