WASHINGTON --- NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels to implement the decisions made by alliance heads of state in July and to discuss burden sharing, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said today.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis will join the other NATO allies in discussing the threats from Russia and the south, as well as changes to the alliance to deal with threats from the cyber world.
Alliance members are making progress toward achieving the goal of nations spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, a goal agreed upon at NATO’s 2014 summit in Wales. “Over the past two years, European allies and Canada have spent a cumulative $41 billion more on defense, and I expect allies to make good on their commitments,” Stoltenberg said.
The defense ministers will also focus on alliance deterrence and defense. The ministerial conference will feature a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group, and will address concerns about Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987.
The ministers will review changes to the alliance command structure, which will include the addition of more than 1,200 personnel. Two new commands – one hosted in Norfolk, Virginia, and the other in Germany – will improve the movement of troops across the Atlantic and within Europe.
Cyber Operations, Partnerships
“We are also setting up our new Cyber Operations Centre, which will help us strengthen our defenses against a real and present threat,” the secretary general said. “Our top military commanders will brief us on the progress made.”
Finally, the ministers will address work with partner countries. They will discuss efforts in and around the Black Sea and the aspiration of Georgia to join the alliance.
The ministers also will review the NATO training mission in Iraq. The effort will include more than 500 troops and will help the country preserve the gains made by the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Stoltenberg said.
Also, the ministers will meet with European Union Vice President Federica Mogherini to discuss cooperation in areas such as military mobility and managing hybrid threats. “Done in the right way, these efforts can contribute to fairer burden sharing between Europe and North America,” he said.