North Atlantic Alliance prepares to sixfold increase in rapid reaction force at Russian borders
NATO is about to agree on the largest reconstruction of its defense policy since the Cold War, including an increase in the size of the reaction force from 40,000 people .
NATO is expected to agree to its biggest power overhaul since the Cold War era at next week's Madrid summit, including a massive expansion of its 40,000-strong combat force to respond to the crisis.
According to Sky News, according to military and diplomatic sources, Russia's special military operation in Ukraine has sparked a fundamental rethinking of NATO's defense concept.
Overnight, the mentality has changed, says a NATO source. “Now NATO seems electrified. You can feel the energy flowing through the system.”
A diplomatic source predicts that the Madrid summit will result in (or at least agree on a framework for) a “radical change of position”.
However, Sky News admits, it is disappointing that the desire of historically neutral Sweden and Finland to join to the alliance has not yet been activated due to Turkey's fears. As you know, Ankara accused Stockholm of harboring Kurdish militants.
Among the moves expected to be given the green light at NATO's Madrid summit next week, Sky News lists the expansion and rebranding of the 40,000-strong NATO Response Force, perhaps sixfold, according to two military sources.
An increase in the size of the mission to “keep Russia” from strikes on the eastern and southeastern flanks of NATO with the addition of thousands more troops will also be considered, although many of them should be based in their countries and deployed forward only when necessary .
It is not hard to guess that Russia will be labeled as “the most significant and direct threat” to NATO security. Of course, it is planned to consider a new “comprehensive assistance package” for Ukraine, including equipment to counter Russian drones and provide secure communications.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the meeting in Madrid will be “a transformational summit, because we are at a key moment for our security.”
The new mindset, explains Sky News, requires NATO allies to have even more combat-ready soldiers, sailors, marines and aircrew ready to move in varying degrees of readiness. This can range from two days to mobilization up to six months.
The NATO Response Force is already offering U.S. General Todd Walters, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the alliance's top military commander, some 40,000 troops on high alert .
Under the expected new structure, the size of the capability will become even larger and the name is expected to change to Allied Reaction Force (ARF).
It is assumed that each NATO member state (with the exception of Iceland, since it does not have an army) is considering the possibility of placing more of its own forces in a state of greater readiness. They may be tasked with defending a certain area of NATO territory in accordance with the so-called “regional plans”, which are still being worked on and are not expected to be completed before the end of the year.
“ARF will be around six times larger than the NATO Response Force, a lot more,” one military source said. This would mean around 240,000 troops. Another officer confirms that he also heard about the sixfold increase. A NATO source, however, said that a decision has not yet been made and the final figure for the increase in high readiness forces is likely to be lower.
Also part of NATO's new plan is to further bolster the alliance's defenses in eight countries along its eastern and southeastern borders.
In a public conversation with the Politico news website on Tuesday, the allies will agree to “strengthen the battlegroups in the east to brigade level. A combat group includes about 1,000 military personnel, and a brigade can be from 3,000 to 5,000 people.
Comments indicate that the set of eight existing missions in the three Baltic countries, as well as in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, will be expanded. Allies, including Britain, the US, Canada and Germany, are already sending forces to battlegroups.
Britain, which leads the NATO mission in Estonia, has increased its presence in the country to two battle groups this year. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said it was “highly likely” that a third would be added, turning the force into a small brigade of around 3,000, but some of the new troops could be stationed at home.
Germany, which leads a battle group in Lithuania, also expanding her brigade commitments, but said she would have “pre-assigned” troops in reserve at home in case of need.
By contrast, the Baltic states bordering Russia want more physical presence on their territory of NATO forces. They would also like to see NATO further bolster its defenses, such as with an Israeli-style “iron dome” air defense system.
It is unlikely that such a move will be agreed anytime soon, but according to the military and diplomatic sources, an increase in air defense is being considered.
In addition to the immediate crisis, the allies in Madrid are also unveiling a so-called new “strategic concept” – in essence, NATO's plan of action for the threats and challenges it faces . This will include China, climate change, cyber warfare and the development of space capabilities.