WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2016 —
The NATO defense ministers meeting beginning tomorrow will posture the alliance to face threats from any direction, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels today.
“Over the next two days, NATO defense ministers will make decisions to address the changed security environment we are facing,” Stoltenberg said during a press conference at NATO headquarters.
With Russia posing a threat from the east and the threats from extremism to the south, the meeting will concentrate on adapting the alliance deterrence and defense strategy, the secretary general said.
Bolstering Collective Defense
“I expect ministers to agree to enhance our forward presence in the eastern part of our alliance,” Stoltenberg said. “This will bolster our collective defense, and at the same time send a powerful signal to deter any aggression or intimidation.”
The U.S. plan to quadruple the funding for the European Reassurance Initiative “is a significant step,” he said. “It will fund a persistent rotational presence of air, land, and maritime forces and more training and exercises.”
The NATO ministers will also look at ways to improve the alliance’s response to hybrid attacks, Stoltenberg said. Russia used this strategy in Ukraine. It combines conventional military force with subversion, cyberattacks and propaganda.
“We will speed up our decision-making, and help ensure that we have all the tools and procedures in place,” the secretary general said. “We will develop ways to boost our resilience, the resilience of our allies.”
Combating Specific Threats
Stoltenberg said NATO will work more closely with the European Union to deal with a range of issues, especially in combating cyber threats.
“This is part of NATO’s long-term adaptation to a new and more challenging security environment, and it will require continued efforts, and continued investment,” he said.
NATO is part of the coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “All NATO allies are part of the counter-ISIL coalition, and I expect NATO to provide them with support,” Stoltenberg said. “We are actively considering the U.S. request for NATO AWACS surveillance planes to backfill national capabilities.”
Stoltenberg said the alliance is working to end the suffering in Syria, reach a ceasefire and start a political transition. “The intense Russian airstrikes, mainly against opposition forces, are undermining these efforts,” he said.
The Russian strikes are driving thousands of refugees toward NATO ally Turkey, making the already desperate humanitarian crisis even worse. “The increased Russian air activity in Syria is also leading to violations of NATO airspace,” Stoltenberg said.
“Overall, the substantial Russian military build-up in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean is shifting the strategic balance and raising tensions in the region,” the secretary general said. “So calm, de-escalation and political solutions are more urgent than ever.”
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