Originally appeared at DWN, translated by John T. Sumner; Edited by Yoana
NATO is preparing for a further global expansion of its activities: in the countries of Eastern Europe and the Gulf region, NATO intends to support more countries in the military formation. Russia is likely to follow this development with great concern.
On Wednesday NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has held a speech on the situation of NATO at the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. Although relatively gentle in tone, the speech contained some edgy statements. Stoltenberg presented the strategy of the military alliance, which is to be established at the next NATO summit in June. Accordingly, NATO defines its task as defending Europe and the United States even outside of its own territory, as Stoltenberg stated.
Expansion of NATO should begin with training and support of local military units. Stoltenberg explicitly referred to Afghanistan as a blueprint. Here, NATO allegedly had succeeded in establishing the Afghan army as a powerful and technologically well-equipped unit. Stoltenberg said that NATO will continue to expand its presence against Russia in Eastern Europe. Therefore, a “chain of new command centers” had been established.
Stoltenberg was quoted as saying:
“A stronger and more secure Europe means a stronger and more secure United States (…) Without NATO transatlantic cooperation would be weaker, Europe and North America would be less secure and the world would be about to evolve into a dangerous place.
Take Russia: last year I spoke about her destabilizing behavior in Washington D.C., her military buildup and her aggression towards Ukraine. And I sketched how NATO responds thereon. We have made significant progress since then. NATO is poised to become more agile and we are increasing our readiness. We strengthen our collective defense – the largest improvement of a joint defense since the end of the Cold War. Now NATO´s reaction force has become three times bigger than before. We have created a series of new headquarters in the eastern part of the Alliance (…) We have recently started with military training and capacity build-up in Georgia, Moldova and Jordan. “
The NATO Secretary General also announced further deployments of US troops in Europe:
“On Monday I have met with Obama and thanked him for having funded and quadrupled the financing of the European Reassurance Initiative (…) This implies more US troops to be stationed on European soil (…) We are facing a new strategic reality and must be prepared (…)
We want to improve our disposition and therefore want to deploy and step up multinational troops in the eastern part of the Alliance. To point it out, an attack against a NATO member will be met by troops who come from all countries of the alliance. We will upgrade our resistance to hybrid warfare and cyber threats and we want to assure that the nuclear component of our deterrent remains credible and effective. We will expand our objective of a Europe in peace and security, with an invitation to Montenegro for joining NATO. “
Stoltenberg admitted, that there is currently no imminent threat of a Russian attack. In an interview subsequent to his speech, he said that NATO will continue to seek diplomatic contact with Russia, but this should be done from a position of strength.
Furthermore, Stoltenberg said that NATO will continue to develop a full-scale regional cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“I welcome the US-led global anti-IS coalition. To protect our territory, we must be prepared to take action beyond our borders. This contains several components: In order to defeat the IS, we have to use force. Military actions are essential if we want to seize the IS strongholds in Iraq and Syria. But construction of stability also implies utilizing our forces to train others to fight.
In the long run it will be more sustainable to enable local forces to protect their own territories instead of emitting large troop units from our own ranks (…) We need to cooperate with regional partners.
In my opinion there are three paths to go: First, NATO has to extend its capability in training and bolstering local forces. My second suggestion is a that NATO has to intensify its backing of Iraq. The key in the fight against IS will be a stable Iraq. Last week, NATO has begun to train Iraqi officers in Jordan (…).
My third suggestion is elevating our cooperation with regional partners to a new level, because its them, who know the region best. A few weeks ago, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entered NATO headquarters. The GCC is continuing to improve its skills in spearheading multinational troops. On the other hand, NATO has empirical knowledge in creation and maintenance of military structures. We can share this expertise. We examine how to cooperate in the scopes of counterterrorism struggle, energy, cyber-defense and Marine security.
My objective is, to promote the cooperation with the GCC. The new regional cooperation center of NATO in Kuwait offers us the opportunity to strengthen our partnerships. The location will be the focus of the joint work of NATO and the GCC (…) The King Abdullah Operations Center in Jordan is another platform for collaboration. It corresponds to NATO standards and here the Iraqi officers will be trained (…) Throughout the regions leaders keep telling me that they want to step up cooperation with NATO. “
NATO will still need a long time to deal with the IS and various other terrorist groups. In this context Stoltenberg remarks:
“The challenges of the Middle East and North Africa represent a direct threat to transatlantic security – to our common values and to our common interests. We need to improve our defense and to strengthen our partners as well. The threat of IS and other terrorist organizations will keep us busy for a long period of time. Therefore, we must deploy all our tools. In this context NATO represents a powerful tool, in which all our nations have invested heavily. “