WASHINGTON, February 11, 2016 —
During meetings in Brussels today, NATO defense ministers discussed deterring and defending against high-end threats emanating from Russia and the threat that the Islamic State poses to southern allies, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
Defense leaders from the 28-nation alliance have gathered at its headquarters for two days of talks on NATO’s continued adaptation in the face of growing security challenges.
Carter said he briefed ministers on the details of the U.S. $3.4 billion European Reassurance Initiative that is in the fiscal year 2017 defense budget request.
“Among other things, it invests in forces and capabilities to operationalize our strong and balanced strategic approach to Russia,” he said during a news conference.
If approved, the funds will support more U.S. rotational forces in Europe, Carter said, “including heel-to-toe rotations that maintain the persistent presence of an armored brigade combat team throughout the year.”
Funding More Training, Exercises
The proposal would fund more training and exercises with allies and base pre-positioned equipment to outfit an additional armored brigade combat team, a division headquarters, a field artillery brigade and air defense units. It would also fund infrastructure improvements to airfields, training centers and ranges throughout Europe.
“It will expand military capability and allow for the quick deployment to the region,” Carter said.
All of these efforts will allow the United States to rapidly form a highly capable combined arms force that could respond theater-wide, if necessary, the defense secretary noted.
Carter told his counterparts that the U.S. defense budget also funds capabilities to deter high-end adversaries.
Readiness Plan Progress
The defense secretary said he is pleased to see progress by allies on the NATO Readiness Action Plan. He specifically praised Turkey and Denmark, who are providing forces that will make the alliance’s very high readiness task force operationally capable.
Still more must happen, Carter said. “NATO must further strengthen its posture to deter and, if necessary, defeat any aggressor across the spectrum of threats,” he said.
“Whether it comes to hybrid, cyber or information operations, Russian actions speak volumes,” the defense secretary said. “They make clear why all allies must continue to invest in and modernize their capabilities -- not only to respond to current challenges, but to stay ahead of potential threats.”
Flexibility and agility will be vital to NATO in the future. “We must demonstrate to potential foes that, if they start a war, we have the capability to win on our terms,” Carter said. “Because for a force to deter conflict, it must show it can dominate a conflict. This is a responsibility we all share.”
The allies also explored ways the alliance can make contributions to the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Later today, Carter will meet with NATO and partner nations that are part of the counter-ISIL coalition to discuss ways to accelerate progress against the terrorist group.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)