Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg previewed this week’s meeting of NATO Defence Ministers – the first in the Alliance’s new headquarters – at a press conference on Wednesday (6 June 2018).
Ministers are expected to take a series of decisions on the NATO Command Structure and military readiness, discuss plans for a NATO training mission in Iraq, and review progress in achieving more defence spending and better burden sharing. They will also discuss NATO-EU cooperation, and hold a meeting on the Resolute Support training mission in Afghanistan
On the Command Structure, the Secretary General announced that he expects a boost of more than 1,200 personnel to be agreed. “I also expect we will agree that our new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic will be based at Norfolk in the United States, and that our new Enabling Command will be based in Ulm, in Germany,” he said.
Noting that “high readiness is essential in a more unpredictable world”, Mr. Stoltenberg said “I expect we will also agree a NATO Readiness Initiative – the ‘Four Thirties’”.
This would mean that Allies would have, by 2020, 30 mechanised battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 combat vessels ready within 30 days or less. “This is not about setting up or deploying new forces, it is about boosting the readiness of existing forces,” he said.
Burden-sharing and defence spending will also be addressed at the meeting. “All Allies have now stopped the cuts in defence spending, and started to increase,” said Mr. Stoltenberg, adding that he would be able to announce the first figures for 2018 on Thursday. Calling defence investment “a matter of fairness” and “security in a more unpredictable world”, he said “we are going in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.”
In a session on fighting terrorism and projecting stability, ministers will discuss plans to launch a training mission in Iraq at the NATO Summit in July. They will also discuss defence capacity-building support for Jordan, and consider what more NATO could do help Tunisia.
On Friday, ministers will address NATO-EU cooperation, with High Representative / Vice President Federica Mogherini, as well as colleagues from Finland and Sweden. Pointing to concrete progress, such as real-time warnings about cyber-attacks and complementary maritime operations, Mr. Stoltenberg noted that “going forward, military mobility could become a flagship for cooperation.”
The ministerial will close with a meeting on Afghanistan, together with partners contributing to the Resolute Support mission. “Allies and partners are stepping up – with both forces and funding,” said the Secretary General. He noted that around 3,000 more trainers have been added to the mission, and that discussions are underway to extend funding for the Afghan forces beyond 2020.
Praising the Afghan forces for their performance, Mr. Stoltenberg concluded: “we must continue to assist them; to support President Ghani’s bold initiative for peace; and to encourage continued reforms to fight corruption and uphold human rights.”