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NATO Announces Fostering the Rapid Reaction Force

Written by Eugenio Montalti

The Secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, announced on 27June that the Alliance is going to increase the capabilities of its rapid reaction force (NRF) by nearly eight times. The troops dedicated to this unit are going from 40.000 to 300.000, and their characteristic is, as the name suggests, that they can deploy quickly when needed.

This event is to be framed within the bigger picture of the tensions that arose amid the Biden and his NATO counterparts’ decision to send several thousands of air- and naval-supported troops to the lands of allies that border Russia and Ukraine. At the Madrid summit, Stoltenberg announced that “these troops will exercise together with home defence forces”,  which is set to become the “biggest overhaul of collective defence and deterrence since the Cold War”. The decision of the Kremlin to begin this unlawful war proved to the allies that we are living in a renewed “era of strategic competition”, as Stoltenberg called it on Monday. This move does not only have a political deterrence aim. As the Secretary-General stated, the troops are also getting practical training as “they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities, and our new pre-positioned stocks. So that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency”.This event is to be framed within the bigger picture of the tensions that arose amid the Biden and his NATO counterparts’ decision to send several thousands of air- and naval-supported troops to the lands of allies that border Russia and Ukraine. At the Madrid summit, Stoltenberg announced that “these troops will exercise together with home defence forces”,  which is set to become the “biggest overhaul of collective defence and deterrence since the Cold War”. The decision of the Kremlin to begin this unlawful war proved to the allies that we are living in a renewed “era of strategic competition”, as Stoltenberg called it on Monday. This move does not only have a political deterrence aim. As the Secretary-General stated, the troops are also getting practical training as “they will become familiar with local terrain, facilities, and our new pre-positioned stocks. So that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency”.

In February of this year, we witnessed the organisation deciding to send parts of the NRF and other quickly deployable spearhead units to the western flank of the alliance, marking the first time that the force had been utilised in a defensive role. This week, the NATO conference in Madrid is expected to lead to an agreement on further support to Ukraine in its war efforts against the Russian Federation. This will be done by adopting a “strengthened comprehensive assistance package” that includes secure communication and anti-drone systems deliveries. Stoltenberg expects the allies to work together in helping Ukraine transition its weaponry from Soviet-era one to modern NATO equipment. This goes together with the announcement made by the G7 of committing to support Ukraine “as long as it takes”. In addition, Stoltenberg has announced its expectation for the members of the organisation to make clear that they consider Russia to be “the most significant and direct threat to oursecurity” by fostering their national battlegroups deployed on NATO’s eastern flank.

This goes together with the adoption of NATO’s new strategic concept, in which the alliance is set to address for the first time the security challenges that Russia and, most notably, China pose in the southern flank of the Alliance through their growing influence. Because of these new challenges, NATO allies in Europe, and Canada, have increased their defence spending for eight consecutive years, as suggested by the recently released defence spending figures. Stoltenberg added, “by the end of the year, they will have invested well over 350 billion US dollars extra since we agreed our defence investment pledge in 2014”. This inverts the trend that started in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War vis a vis the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since then, the allies promised to reach a defence expenditure of at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024. As of today, just nine allies meet this objective and nineteen have set a clear path to reach this goal in time. However, Stoltenberg concluded that the 2% threshold “is increasingly considered a floor, not a ceiling”.

Bibliography

Petrequin Samuel. (2022, June 27). NATO to Boost Rapid Reaction Force, Ukraine Military Support. Associated Press. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-06-27/nato-to-boost-rapid-reaction-force-ukraine-military-support

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