NATO leaders hope to agree at their summit in Madrid on Wednesday and Thursday to increase their high-readiness forces to "more than 300,000", NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced today at a press conference prior to the meeting. He added that NATO heads of state and government will decide to reinforce some of the battalions deployed in Eastern European countries at brigade level.
In Madrid, "we will transform the NATO Response Force. And we will increase the number of our high-readiness forces to well over 300,000," Stoltenberg announced.
NATO's Response Force, a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces components that the Alliance can rapidly deploy wherever it is needed, currently stands at 40,000 troops.
To carry out this reinforcement, NATO plans to have more pre-positioned equipment and military supply stocks, the deployment of more capabilities, such as air defence, enhanced command and control and improved defence planning, with forces "pre-assigned" to defend specific allies.
These troops, Stoltenberg said, "will exercise alongside the homeland defence forces and become familiar with the local terrain, facilities and our new pre-positioned reserves", "so that they can respond smoothly and quickly to any emergency".
These initiatives represent "the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and defence since the Cold War", the Norwegian politician said. At the summit, he said, "we will strengthen our battalions in the eastern part of the Alliance to brigade level".
Following Russia's aggression in Ukraine in 2014, NATO decided to install four multinational battalions in Poland and the Baltic states, while the war launched by Moscow this year against its neighbour has led the allies to double their numbers and deploy four more in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia.
Stoltenberg specified that he expects this conversion from battalion to brigade to take place in "some" of these countries and argued that there is no single solution that fits all of them, as it depends on the "needs" of each ally.
The Allied Secretary General also referred to the fact that in Madrid NATO will approve a new Strategic Concept, the document that will direct its actions over the next decade in response to "a new security reality" and which will represent "a fundamental change in deterrence and defence" for the Alliance. "It will guide us in an era of strategic competition," he said, hoping that the new Strategic Concept will "make clear that the Allies regard Russia as the most significant and direct threat to our security".
In the current Strategic Concept, adopted at the 2010 Lisbon summit, the allies still classify Russia as a strategic partner. Instead, Stoltenberg explained that Russia 'has moved away from the dialogue that we have been trying to have for many years' and that agreements signed with Moscow are no longer working 'simply because it has chosen confrontation over dialogue'.
"We have to respond to that reality. Hence the fundamental change in our deterrence and defence", he said, although he acknowledged that it will continue to be necessary to maintain "lines of communication" with Russia in order to avoid incidents. On the other hand, he assured that the Strategic Concept that comes out of Madrid "will address for the first time" China and "the challenges it poses to our security, interests and values", as well as the evolution of other threats and challenges, including terrorism, cyberspace and hybrid warfare.