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NATO beefing up to face 'assertive' Russia

November 9, 2017

NATO plans to update its command structure for the first time since the end of the Cold War to ease movement of troops across the Atlantic and in Europe. It said the step was in response to Russian military moves.

A Eurofighter in a hanger in Estonia
Image: picture alliance/dpa/Luftwaffe/VAPB 2015 PAO

The decision "reflects NATO's commitment to adapting its capabilities to emerging challenges," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said as NATO defense ministers started a two-day meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

"A key component of our adaptation is a robust and agile command structure," Stoltenberg said. "We will continue doing whatever is necessary to keep our territory secure and our citizens safe."

One new command to be created will focus on protecting sea lines across the Atlantic, while another will upgrade movement of forces and equipment within Europe.

Infografik NATO Expansion Europa ENG

The move is also in part reportedly aimed at pushing European governments to upgrade civilian infrastructure to enable the transportation of heavy equipment.

"In many parts of Europe, we don't have the standards, we don't have the strength of the bridges or the roads or the different types of infrastructure which can carry the heavy equipment we need to move," Stoltenberg said.

US President Donald Trump has criticized fellow NATO members for not paying what he says is their fair share of the alliance's budget, a position that has alienated some in Europe and strengthened calls for an EU defense force.

NATO General James Everard on Russia's Zapad drills

Cyber defense plans

NATO members also agreed to increase the use of cyber weaponry and tactics during military operations. The creation of a new NATO cyber-operations hub comes as the alliance faces hundreds of attacks on its networks every month and fears grow over the Kremlin's electronic tactics.

"We are now integrating cyber effects into NATO missions and operations to respond to a changed and new security environment where cyber is part of the threat picture we have to respond to," Stoltenberg said.

For threat read Russia

Stoltenberg said NATO defense and deterrence efforts were "not directed against any specific nation" and that there was "no imminent threat against any NATO ally," but noted that NATO has seen "a much more assertive Russia" recently, including Russia's use of military force in Ukraine.

"NATO has to be able to respond to that," he said. The changes to the command structure also include recognizing cyber threats and integrating national cyber defense capabilities into NATO planning and operations at all levels.

jbh/sms (dpa, AFP)