NATO plans to increase the number of its enhanced Response Force by over 300,000 troops, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday. The more than sevenfold increase is part of what he described as “the biggest overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”
After four months into the Ukraine war, the military alliance is assuming a new posture.
“Russia has walked away from the partnership and the dialogue that NATO has tried to establish with Russia for many years,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels before the NATO Madrid summit, which starts on Tuesday.
NATO leaders will assemble in Spain to decide on the 30-member alliance’s most important document, the Strategic Concept.
Updated approximately every 10 years, the statement will confirm NATO values, deliver a joint review of security questions, and provide direction for the alliance’s future political and military goals.
Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO considers Russia the “most significant and direct threat” to alliance security due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s choice to invade Ukraine.
Stoltenberg remarked at a press conference, “Our NATO Summit in Madrid this week will be transformative with many important decisions, including on a new Strategic Concept for a new security reality.”
“We will transform the NATO Response Force and increase the number of our high readiness forces to well over 300,000,” he said.
Stoltenberg’s commitment means a troop increase of 650%, given that NATO’s high-alert Response Force currently includes around 40,000 soldiers.
“These troops will exercise together with home defense forces, and they will become familiar with local terrain facilities … so that they can respond smoothly and swiftly to any emergency,” he said.
The general secretary’s remarks come after the Baltic states implored the organization to increase defenses in Eastern Europe.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — all NATO and European Union members — have noted that Russia’s war on Ukraine demands essential changes to NATO’s existing military strategy. The three countries have jointly called on NATO to supply a significant expansion in the number of foreign troops stationed in the area and to reconsider the organization’s existing “tripwire” approach.
“At the summit, we will strengthen our forward defenses. We will enhance our battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance up to brigade levels,” Stoltenberg said, adding that troop increases will demand more significant investments from NATO members.
Stoltenberg added that for the first time, NATO’s Strategic Concept would address China “and the challenges that Beijing poses to our security, interests, and values.”
“It will also cover our evolving approach to a number of other threats and challenges, including terrorism, cyber and hybrid,” he said.