British Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach spoke today at the committee's chiefs of defense session. Army Gen. Mark A, Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented the United States in his first NATO Military Committee meeting — the highest military council in the alliance.
The chiefs paused to remember those killed on NATO duty since the last committee meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, last year. All of those killed were members of the U.S. Army.
Over the past year, the alliance "strengthened our partnerships in Europe and beyond, deepening political dialogue, extending support and engagement with partner countries and international organizations, including our friends in the European Union and the United Nations," Peach said. "For the first time in 60 years, the NATO military strategy was agreed by … the chiefs of defense and updated to reflect the current threats we face. This strategy is the handrail that guides us to deliver safety and security to almost 1 billion people."
NATO continues to adapt to the changing security environment, the air chief marshal said. "We've taken additional steps to remain capable to fulfill our core tasks in the years to come," Peach said. "We continue to strengthen defense and deterrence, raising the readiness of our forces, increasing our ability to move them across the Atlantic and within Europe, and modernizing our military command structure and headquarters."
Since the Russian annexation of Crimea and continuing battles in Ukraine, NATO has reinforced collective defense. "We strengthened our military posture from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea," the air chief marshal said. "We have combat-ready troops in the eastern part of our alliance. We have declared initial operating capabilities for the Joint Support and Enabling Command which will help us coordinate and safeguard the movement of allied forces across Europe and the North Atlantic."
The alliance is directly confronting Russia's hybrid warfare effort with the deployment of a counter-hybrid warfare support team to Montenegro to help strengthen the country’s capabilities and deterring hybrid challenges, he said.
"Defense spending has continued to increase," Peach said. NATO figures show an increase of 4.6% in 2019, the fifth year in a row of such growth. "By the end of this year, allies will have invested more than $130 billion extra," Peach said. "By 2024, we expect that number to be $400 billion."
The NATO military chiefs will discuss the NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the alliance's ongoing efforts in the Balkans, how NATO will operate in space, and how to defend the cyber domain.