NATO’s secretary general says this week’s Madrid summit will agree on the alliance’s most significant transformation in a generation, bringing 300,000 troops to high readiness in response to the invasion of NATO. Ukraine by Russia.
Jens Stoltenberg said military alliance forces in the Baltic states and five other frontline countries would be increased “to brigade level” – doubled or tripled to between 3,000 and 5,000 troops.
It would amount to “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War,” Stoltenberg said ahead of the 30-nation alliance meeting, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday this week.
NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force currently numbers up to 40,000 troops, and the proposed change amounts to a major overhaul in response to Russian militarization. According to plans, NATO will also move stockpiles of ammunition and other supplies further east, a transition that should be completed in 2023.
Norway’s secretary general conceded that he could make no promises about moving forward with Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership applications, as Turkey’s objections to their membership remained unresolved.
Stoltenberg said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had agreed to meet Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Madrid on Tuesday to try to resolve the issue.
But he played down hopes of a breakthrough at the meeting on the sidelines of the NATO event. “It’s too early to say what kind of progress you can make between now and the summit,” he told a news conference.
Turkey has said it will block applications from Sweden and Finland unless it receives satisfactory assurances that the Nordic countries are ready to respond to what it sees as support for Kurdish groups that it designate as terrorist organizations.
Later on Monday, Andersson said she was still hopeful a last-minute deal could be reached, after a day of contacts between officials from the three countries in Brussels.
“My hope is that this dialogue can be concluded successfully in the near future, ideally before the summit,” Andersson said, stressing that Sweden “condemns terrorism in all its forms” and that the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgent was recognized. as a terrorist group in Sweden.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address the summit on Wednesday morning, where he is expected to follow up on a call at Monday’s G7 meeting in Germany for Western countries to provide weapons so the war doesn’t “go on forever.” not during the winter. .
Stoltenberg said NATO would accept “a comprehensive and enhanced assistance package” for Kyiv, including immediate help to “secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel” and longer-term assistance for the transition from standard Soviet weapons and equipment to their Western equivalents.
But while the state of war is likely to dominate the summit, NATO itself will only offer non-lethal aid as its members do not want the alliance to go to full war with Russia. . Arms deliveries are instead carried out by Member States.
NATO maintains eight battlegroups across Eastern Europe, aiming to act as the first line of defense in the event of a Russian invasion. Four are in the Baltic States and Poland, and these were supplemented by the creation of four more in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia after the attack on Ukraine.
Germany said this month it would provide a brigade of troops to defend Lithuania, where the country leads a 1,000-member battle group, although it emerged that the bulk of the additional 3,500 Berlin intends to contribute would be based on its own soil, ready to move further east if necessary.
Stoltenberg said he expected other NATO members to make similar announcements to defend the countries for which they are responsible. Additional personnel would be made up of “preassigned forces in their home countries” who would train regularly in the countries to which they had been linked, he added.
Britain contributes around 1,700 troops to a multinational battle group it leads in Estonia. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said almost a fortnight ago there was a high likelihood the UK would send hundreds more troops to support Estonia.
But Stoltenberg said there would be no one size fits all, suggesting that not all battle groups would be increased to full brigade size. Canada leads the battle group in Latvia, where it contributes 700 soldiers, while the United States is responsible for Poland.
NATO has released figures showing that defense spending by its 30 members is expected to increase by 1.2% in real terms in 2022, the slowest rate of growth in eight consecutive years of growth.
Nine countries are expected to exceed the 2% of GDP target, led by Greece at 3.76% and the United States at 3.47% with Britain sixth at 2.12%, down slightly from the two previous years. France spends 1.9% and Germany 1.44%.