Defence ministers of Nato countries approved the establishment of new command-and-control centres in six eastern member countries of the alliance, including in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, and a doubling of the alliance’s Response Force.
The command-and-control centres will be in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
“If a crisis arises, they will ensure that national and NATO forces from across the Alliance are able to act as one from the start. They will make rapid deployment easier. Support planning for collective defence. And help co-ordinate training and exercises,” Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Along with the substantial increase in the Response Force, the defence ministers approved the setting up of a “Spearhead Force”, to number about 5000 military personnel, that in the event of need would be able to be deployed within a few days.
The defence ministers approved plans in the light of the changing security environment to the east and south of the Alliance’s borders, a Nato media statement said.
The Nato Response Force will be enhanced. The Defence Ministers agreed on the size and scope of a new very high readiness force or Spearhead Force.
“We decided that this very high readiness force will consist of a land brigade of about 5000 troops. These will be supported by air, sea and special forces,” Stoltenberg said.
He said the Spearhead Force would be backed up by two more brigades “as a rapid reinforcement capability in case of a major crisis. Altogether, the enhanced Nato Response Force will count up to around 30 000 troops.”
Speaking ahead of the February 5 meeting of Nato defence ministers, Stoltenberg said that Nato was adapting its posture and forces to the changing security environment.
Stoltenberg said that it was very critical time for security in Europe, and across the world.
In Ukraine, violence was getting worse and the crisis is deepening. “Russia continues to disregard international rules and to support the separatists with advanced weapons, training and forces,” he said.
In North Africa and the Middle East, violent extremism is spreading, “and this turmoil fuels terrorism in our own countries”.
He said that Nato already increased its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance.
Stoltenberg said that the command and control units in six of the eastern Nato countries would make it easier to deploy Nato forces rapidly.
The command and control units will support collective defence planning and nd help coordinate multinational exercises, he said.
The units would be a link between national defence and multinational Nato forces. They will plan and will organise exercises, and will be key for connecting national forces with Nato reinforcements.
“Our decisions make clear that Nato is determined to defend all Allies against any threats from any direction,” Stoltenberg said.
The Nato Response Force is to be increased from a current 13 000 to 30 000 and as part of the force, there will be a Spearhead Force, of about 5000.
The Spearhead Force will have “some lead elements” able to deploy at very short notice, meaning within a few days.