Partnerships

NATO's New Strategy Will Better Protect Europe, Top Commander Says

Oct. 4, 2019 | BY David Vergun

The top U.S. military commander in Europe says the U.S. military will have a more productive role in NATO as a means of protecting Europe against two basic threats: Russia's "malign influence" and international terrorism.

Troops in camouflage uniforms scramble out of helicopter as one soldier crouches on the ground with a weapon.
Soldier Scramble
Soldiers assigned to the 1st Infantry Division scramble out of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Exercise Saber Junction 19 at the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Sept. 24, 2019.
Photo By: Mathew Blas, Army
VIRIN: 190924-A-XD342-2017

Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told Pentagon reporters yesterday that continuing to support NATO by promoting democratic values is the key to defending Europe and deterring aggression.

Two soldiers in camouflage uniforms crouch in tall grass and aim weapons.
Saber Security
Soldiers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade provide security during Exercise Saber Junction 19 at the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Sept. 25, 2019.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Uriel Ramirez
VIRIN: 190925-A-GQ344-1001A

"And as we support NATO with that number one priority, we are promoting those value systems. And it's very, very important that we stay tied to that," he said.

As for deterring aggression in Europe, Wolters said that means countering Russian malign influence. "And, as you talk about countering Russian malign influence, you go back to the value system that we promote."

A paratrooper descends via parachute above his rucksack.
Hohenfels Descent
An Army paratrooper jumps from an Air Force C-130 military transport aircraft during Saber Junction 2019 at Hohenfels Training Area in Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.The exercise involves nearly 5,400 participants from 16 ally and partner nations.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Thomas Mort
VIRIN: 190918-A-YQ762-0924S
Soldiers ride in a military vehicle.
Soldier Scouts
Soldiers carry out a simulated scouting mission at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 26, 2019, during Saber Junction, an exercise involving nearly 5,400 participants from 16 ally and partner nations.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Thomas Mort
VIRIN: 190926-A-YQ762-0103C

To counter Russia, the U.S. is a big advocate of building military relationships with NATO nations — there are 29 — and other nation partners through personal relationships and readiness exercises, he said.

One of the good news stories is that NATO now has its own military strategy, he said, something they didn't have for the last 50-plus years. "We did not have a document that the military arm that represents NATO could follow in order to apply a strategy," he said.

Sailors stand on the deck of a ship in the middle of the ocean.
Destroyer Cleaning
Sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Gridley conduct a freshwater wash down as the ship transits the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 28, 2019. Gridley is underway on a regularly-scheduled deployment as the flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group One to conduct maritime operations and provide a continuous maritime capability for NATO in the northern Atlantic.
Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Cameron
VIRIN: 190928-N-UB406-0029

That strategy, which was endorsed by the North Atlantic Council, allows the U.S. military to have a more productive role within NATO and identifies two basic threats: Russia's status as a near-peer competitor and international terrorism, he said. 

Four men in camouflage uniforms watch as an all-terrain vehicle backs out of  an aircraft.
Hercules Unloading
Airmen with the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, direct the driver of an all-terrain vehicle to back out of a C-130H Hercules aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, during Exercise Saber Junction 19, Sept. 22, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Patrick Evenson
VIRIN: 190922-Z-YI114-0028

NATO has also implemented a "command structure adaptation," which means forces are placed in Europe wherever they are needed to better deter potential conflict, wherever that might be anticipated.

A soldier packs up a parachute.
Parachute Packer
Army 1st. Lt. Daniel Lupacchino packs his parachute following a jump at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019, during Saber Junction, an exercise involving nearly 5,400 participants from 16 ally and partner nations.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Christopher Stewart
VIRIN: 190918-A-WF617-0094C

Although Europe is the primary focus, Wolters also said he is in consults regularly with his counterparts in other combatant commands to ensure the right balance of forces in the places they're needed most.