NATO announces rapid reaction force

NATO leaders have approved sending military equipment to Eastern Europe as a potential deterrent to further aggressive moves by Russia, and they also agreed to establish a rapid-reaction force of alliance troops to respond to crises.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced “Operation Spearhead” Friday as the leaders’ two-day summit was concluding in Wales. He said Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states have offered to host a so-called “reception facility” for deployment of military equipment.

Britain will contribute 3,500 personnel to the rapid-reaction force, Prime Minister David Cameron said, because he feels NATO must increase its capacity to deal with challenges in Europe.

Air power flypast - NATO Wales Summit

President Barack Obama is due to speak on the issues facing NATO later Friday (at about 11:30 EDT).

The NATO leaders also discussed possible further sanctions against Russia following disclosures of the extent of its military involvement supporting separatists in Ukraine. Another key point on their agenda was the threat that all nations face from the radical militant group that now calls itself the Islamic State, and says it intends to expand oiperations beyond the territory it controls in northern Iraq and Syria.

Earlier, British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said the West plans to move ahead with sanctions on Russia, but said they could be lifted pending the outcome of Friday peace talks that could result in a cease-fire.

Ukraine, Islamic State

The Ukrainian crisis has dominated the talks, but NATO leaders are also focused on developing strategies for containing the threat from Islamic State extremists who have in recent weeks overrun large swaths of northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

Cameron said Thursday NATO leaders are trying to form a unified and comprehensive response to the Sunni extremist group.

“What we’re closer to now is making sure we do everything we can to squeeze this dreadful organization out of existence. You’ve seen real unanimity here, that everyone has to play their part,” Cameron said.

Obama and Cameron — writing in The Times of London Thursday — said they would not be intimidated by the Islamic State, which has beheaded two American journalists. The extremist group is also threatening a captive Briton with execution because of the U.S. bombardment of Islamic State positions in Iraq.


NATO leaders also have been discussing the alliance’s 13-year war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and the political uncertainties in Kabul that threaten to derail future NATO efforts.

The Kabul government has yet to declare a winner in the June presidential runoff — a dispute that has all but paralyzed governance in Kabul and threatens a new agreement to keep several NATO thousand troops in Afghanistan beyond December 31.

NATO troops are slated to leave the country by January 1, 2015, if a new president does not sign agreements on the status of NATO forces in the country.


(Photos of the air power flypast over Celtic Manor, September 5 2014: