NATO Defence Ministers Focus on Adaptation of the Alliance to Counter Modern Threats
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued June 18, 2020)
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today welcomed NATO’s continued commitment to its modernisation agenda following a meeting of Defence Ministers, held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The crisis prevented ministers meeting in person in Brussels, but continued as planned via video conferencing, including several bilateral meetings.

Work continues at pace to progress NATO’s agenda to adapt and modernise to meet the threats of an increasingly unstable world, as agreed at the London Leaders’ Meeting last December.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “From the outbreak of Covid-19 to Russia’s new missile capabilities, the complex threats we face take many forms and derive from multiple sources.

“NATO is rising to meet all of these challenges, by strengthening its response to the pandemic, pushing forward its ambitious adaptation agenda agreed last year in London and continuing to provide essential deterrence and defence in an increasingly uncertain world.”

At this week’s meeting, ministers discussed:
-- A new deterrence and defence concept for NATO, which sets out a framework for the Alliance’s military activity in response to threats across land, air, sea and in the new domains of cyber and space.

-- NATO’s adaptation to address Russia’s deployment of new intermediate-range missiles and other new missile capabilities – NATO is responding to Russia in a balanced and responsible way, including by strengthening air and missile defences and adapting exercising.

-- NATO’s nuclear deterrent, including a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group to discuss how to ensure the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.

-- NATO’s operations and missions around the world, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The UK has been integral in championing the Alliance’s collective, balanced response to new Russian missiles and in strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, which is the bedrock of the UK’s defence.

Mr Wallace also praised the progress NATO has made in adapting to today’s emerging challenges such as hybrid warfare and disruptive technologies.

COVID-19

Ministers were also joined by counterparts from Australia, Finland, Sweden and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy to discuss the long-term security implications of COVID-19. Ministers agreed an operational plan to ensure Allies are ready to support one another through any further waves of infection, as well as new guidelines to strengthen Allies’ preparedness and resilience.

Through the NATO Euro Atlantic Disaster Relief Co-ordination Committee (EADRCC), NATO Allies have helped to deliver hundreds of tonnes of vital aid where needed. The Defence Secretary recognised the important role the Armed Forces and NATO have played in the global response to COVID and assured Allies the UK will continue to support in this effort.

The UK will also make a monetary contribution to a new NATO Pandemic Response Trust Fund, which will be used to support Allies and partners through activities such as the purchase of vital equipment, the transportation of medical personnel and supplies, and the purchase and delivery of other relief resources.

In discussions the Defence Secretary underlined that the UK will continue to meet its 2% GDP defence-spending commitment and our defence budget will grow by at least 0.5% above inflation in each year of this Government. NATO is built on a commitment to collective defence and mutual support – a commitment which is reinforced by countries sharing the burden of defence investment and meeting the 2% target.

Since all Allies pledged to meet the 2% target by 2024 at the Wales Summit in 2014, significant progress has been made. In 2019, defence spending by non-US Allies increased in real terms by 4.6 per cent – the fifth consecutive year of growth.

NATO – The bedrock of UK defence

The UK continues to play a leading role in NATO by contributing to operations across the globe and offering its cutting-edge capabilities to the Alliance:

-- The UK has around one thousand troops deployed in Estonia and Poland as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence initiative.

-- The RAF is contributing this summer to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, protecting the airspace of our Allies on a 24/7 basis.

-- The UK also provides significant capacity to NATO current operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing training and assistance to forces in support of sustainable peace settlements.

-- The UK is the only member to assign all its nuclear forces to the defence of NATO.

-- The UK was the first Ally to offer our offensive cyber capability to the Alliance.

-- The UK has nearly one thousand personnel serving in the NATO Command Structures, and we hold the post of the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

-- The UK has offered a significant contribution to the NATO Readiness Initiative over land, sea and air. Our nation’s future flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth and cutting-edge F-35 jets will be at the heart of this offer.

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NATO Defense Ministers Look to Counter Russia, 2nd COVID-19 Wave
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued June 18, 2020)
The NATO alliance is preparing to face traditional and nontraditional threats, looking to continue to deter Russia and to face a possible second wave of COVID-19.

NATO defense ministers discussed the response to threats facing the alliance during a three-day virtual meeting chaired by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper attended.

"State and nonstate actors continue their attempts to destabilize, disrupt and divide allies," the secretary general said during a news conference. "So NATO's job is to remain ready to defend all allies against any threat."

Russia continues its military actions in Ukraine, it continues to occupy Crimea, it sends troops to prop up the Assad regime in Syria, and now it is sending aircraft and personnel to Libya. Russia remains the greatest threat to the alliance, and the ministers discussed Russian efforts to subvert the alliance and build their military force. They specifically addressed Russia's extensive and growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and their implications for NATO's security, Stoltenberg said.

In 2019, Russia deployed SSC-8 missiles, which led to the demise of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. "The SSC-8 missiles are dual-capable, mobile and hard to detect," Stoltenberg said. "They can reach European cities with little warning time, and they lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is modernizing intercontinental ballistic missiles, and that Russia has fielded a hypersonic glide vehicle.

"Russia has tested its air-launched ballistic missile system, and is developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile," the secretary general said. "We have also seen a pattern over many years of irresponsible Russian nuclear rhetoric, aimed at intimidating and threatening NATO allies. Russia's behavior is destabilizing and dangerous."

The defense ministers agreed to a balanced package of political and military elements, including strengthening the alliance integrated air and missile defense system. "We also agreed to strengthen our advanced conventional capabilities, and allies are investing in new platforms, including fifth generation fighter aircraft," Stoltenberg said.

The alliance is adapting intelligence sharing arrangements and bulking up exercises, he added.

The secretary general said the NATO nuclear deterrent in Europe remains vital for peace and freedom. "Today we decided on additional steps to keep the NATO nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective," he said. "We will maintain our deterrence and defense, but we will not mirror Russia. We have no intention to deploy new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe."

The ministers want negotiations on nuclear arms with all. Stoltenberg called on China, as a major military and nuclear power, to participate.

The alliance's ministers also discussed the NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and reiterated their strong commitment to Afghanistan's long-term security. "This commitment is vital to ensuring the peace process continues to move forward," Stoltenberg said. "To support the peace process, we are adjusting our presence in Afghanistan, and we will consider further adjustments in troop levels in close coordination with allies."

Changes in Afghanistan are conditions-based, and Stoltenberg called on the Taliban "to live up to their commitments, take part in intra-Afghan negotiations and make real compromises for lasting peace."

Iraqi security forces have made enormous strides, the secretary general said, but ISIS has tried to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. "Today, allies reiterated their commitment to stepping up our efforts in Iraq, in full consultation with the Iraqi government and the global coalition," he added.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq have requested NATO assistance in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and both nations have received aid from NATO allies, including critical medical supplies. NATO defense ministers also approved a plan for the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

NATO leaders will continue to ensure "credible and effective deterrence and defense," Stoltenberg said. "We have taken all the necessary measures to ensure our forces remain ready, vigilant and prepared to respond to any threat, because it is essential that this health crisis does not become a security crisis," he added.

The defense ministers will continue the alliance's role of supporting the civilian response to COVID-19. NATO assets have airlifted essential supplies, transported patients and constructed field hospitals.

"Medical authorities around the world have warned that we could see a second wave in the pandemic, so NATO is preparing to provide strong support to civilian efforts if that happens," the secretary general said.

The ministers agreed to a new operation plan to provide support to allies and partners. "We also agreed to establish a stockpile of medical equipment and supplies, and we agreed on a new fund, to enable us to quickly acquire medical supplies and services," Stoltenberg said.

"Just as allies have supported one another, and our partners in the first wave of COVID-19, we stand ready to support each other should a second wave of the pandemic strike to reduce suffering, and to save lives," he added.

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