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NATO will increase the size of its rapid reaction force by almost eight times to 300,000 troops in response to the “era of strategic rivalry.” general secretary of the military union Monday said.
The NATO Response Force currently has around 40,000 soldiers who can deploy quickly if needed.
Combined with other measures, including deploying forces to protect specific allies, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move is part of “the biggest reform of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”
“These troops will conduct exercises together with the country’s defense forces,” Stoltenberg said. “And they will get to know the local area, the facilities and our new prepositioned stocks. So they can respond smoothly and quickly to any emergency.”
Stoltenberg made the announcement at a press conference ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, when the 30 allies are also expected to agree to further support Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Stoltenberg said he expects allies to make it clear that they consider Russia “the most serious and direct threat to our security.”
According to Stoltenberg, NATO’s new strategic concept also expects the alliance to address China’s security concerns for the first time. Allies to discuss how to respond to growing influence in Madrid Russia and China in their “southern region,” he added.
Stoltenberg said that the allies would agree to provide additional military support to Ukraine when they convened in Spain, and NATO members intended to adopt a “strengthened comprehensive assistance package”, including the supply of secure communications systems and protection against drones.
In the long term, the Allies aim to help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era weapons to modern NATO equipment, Stoltenberg said. The world’s seven leading economic powers on Monday stressed their commitment to Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Another central theme of the NATO summit will be the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining the alliance after Russia invasion of Ukraine.
NATO member Turkey has so far blocked bids, citing what it sees as the two countries’ mild approach to organizations that Turkey considers terrorist, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or the PKK.
Turkey demands that Sweden and Finland comply with the requests for extradition of persons wanted by the Turkish authorities. Ankara claims countries are harboring PKK members as well as people it says are linked to the failed 2016 coup.
Turkey also wants assurances that the arms restrictions imposed by the two countries in connection with Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria in 2019 will be lifted.
Stoltenberg said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson agreed to meet on the sidelines of the summit.
“We have been working hard since Finland and Sweden applied for membership to ensure that they can join the alliance as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg said. “I won’t make any promises, but I can assure you that we are actively working to make progress because Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO bids are historic.”
NATO released new data on defense spending showing US allies in Europe as well as Canada have increased defense spending for the eighth year in a row.
“By the end of the year they are well invested more than 350 trillion US dollars more since we agreed on our defense investment commitment in 2014,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO countries cut their military budgets in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, but increased spending when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. product by 2024.
“Currently, nine allies are meeting or exceeding the 2% target. Nine allies have clear plans to achieve it by 2024,” Stoltenberg said. “Two percent is increasingly considered the bottom, not the ceiling. We will also agree together to invest more in NATO,” pre-entry school coach.