On the first of a two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday, just five weeks ahead of a NATO summit to be attended by U.S. President Donald Trump, the ministers unveiled a number of key new plans, including the establishment of two new commands based in Norfolk, Virginia and Ulm, Germany.
The ministers made staffing levels of more than 1,200 personnel for new commands in Norfolk and Ulm covering the Atlantic Ocean, handling logistics during any conflict in mainland Europe, the Associated Press reported.
“We have decided further steps to strengthen our shared security and boost defence and deterrence against threats from any direction,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, adding that the two commands will help “ensure we have the right forces in the right place at the right time.”
The ministers also unveiled a new plan to reinforce the alliance’s presence in any European crisis with the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 aircraft squadrons and 30 warships within 30 days — the so-called “Four 30s.”
The full details of the plan, which was drawn up by the U.S. and is to be in place by 2020, were not revealed.
Stoltenberg: Defence spending up fourth year in row
The NATO chief also released what he said were new figures showing that allies have spent a total of $87 billion more on defence since 2014, also noting that 2018 is the fourth year in a row that defence spending has increased.
“For Estonia, it is important for a common understanding to emerge between member states on how to reinforce troops with additional units and equipment in the event of a military conflict,” Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Pro Patria) said.
The Estonian minister noted that while NATO possesses significant capabilities to support allies, the large-scale movement of troops in Europe has not been rehearsed during years that the alliance’s focus has been elsewhere.
On Thursday afternoon, the ministers of defense of Estonia, Latvia and Denmark also discussed possibilities to enhance the effectiveness of the command structure of the allies in the Baltic Sea region.
In addition, Estonia is taking part in the Franco-German initiative on military cooperation.
Lithuania wants separate command for alliance’s eastern flank
Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis welcomes the NATO defence ministers’ plan to establish two new allied commands in the U.S. and Europe and has called for a third to be established for the alliance’s eastern flank.
“NATO’s adapted Command Structure and the decision to boost the readiness of forces will ensure a rapid and smooth movement of troops across the Atlantic and in Europe in the event of a crisis or conflict and will enable the forces to be ready to respond immediately and without delay,” Karoblis said at Thursday’s meeting.
He noted that these decisions were particularly important for Lithuania and the alliance’s eastern region as a whole.
“Due to our geographic location, we are the most sensitive to threats, and we are very much interested in a smooth and rapid redeployment of allied forces,” he said.
The Lithuanian minister emphasized that the speed of decision-making is a key condition for effective collective defence, and called on his counterparts to take every effort to ensure that NATO forces are capable of responding immediately in a crisis or conflict, spokespeople for the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence said.
The minister also stressed that the establishment of another land force command centre at the alliance’s eastern border would help ensure greater efficiency of collective defence in the Baltic states and Poland.