By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 26, 2015 – NATO allies are growing more united despite Russian aggression in Europe, and the alliance has a new approach to meeting security challenges to the east and south, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Brussels yesterday.
As part of a June 21-26 trip to Germany, Estonia and Belgium for bilateral and multilateral meetings with European defense ministers, Carter participated in his first NATO defense Ministers meeting as U.S. secretary of defense.
The secretary also visited U.S. troops and those from allied and partner nations during his five-day trip.
“Like my visits to Berlin, Munster and Tallinn,” Carter said during a news conference after the NATO meeting, “my meetings here with my NATO counterparts in Brussels affirmed that while some in Europe are trying to create division, ... NATO allies are only growing more united in their resolve to move forward together."
New Security Challenges
To meet new security challenges in the south and the east, Carter said, NATO is using a new playbook and leveraging lessons of history and its own strengths. During the meeting, Carter described a new U.S. strategic approach to aggressive and threatening Russian behavior.
Included in the new playbook is NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which Carter said DoD will support with a range of enabling capabilities.
These include intratheater and strategic airlift; aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; combat sustainment support; mid-air refueling; an air and space expeditionary wing; naval support assets; precision joint fires; combat helicopters; a deployable command post; and special operations air and maritime capabilities, the secretary said.
The department also is adjusting its posture and presence to help facilitate training and exercises and make NATO member forces more agile, mobile and responsive.
“As I announced in Estonia,” Carter said, “the United States will temporarily stage in Central and Eastern Europe a pre-positioned European activity set of tanks, infantry-fighting vehicles, artillery and associated equipment needed for one armored brigade combat team.”
Two battalion sets are in Europe now, and a third will arrive shortly, he said, adding that NATO also is working to counter challenges such as cyber and hybrid warfare.
“In cyberspace, we're building on our commitment to strengthen NATO's Cyber Defense Center of Excellence so it can help nations develop cyber strategies, critical infrastructure protection plans, and cyber defense posture assessments,” the secretary noted.
Carter asked allies to increase their participation in cyber exercises and encouraged them to work toward meeting NATO's cyber defense targets so all meet the highest standards for cybersecurity.
“To make sure allied nations are prepared to counter hybrid warfare, we need to understand the tactics, techniques, procedures and resource implications required to do so,” Carter said, adding that he asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to make this a priority at the next conference of defense ministers.
In a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and in a bilateral meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Carter reaffirmed the United States' commitment to Ukraine.
America's support for Ukraine totals $238 million so far in security assistance, the secretary said, and 300 U.S. paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade are in Yavoriv, training the Ukrainian national guard.
In a meeting with Afghanistan's defense minister-designate, Acting Minister Masoom Stanikzai, and in a meeting of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, Carter said, he reiterated the shared commitment to helping Afghanistan ensure that gains made over a decade of war will endure.