In view of the threat from Russia, NATO wants to do more for defense and deterrence. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announces an armed forces model – and names an impressive number.
Against the background of the war of aggression against Ukraine, NATO wants to increase the number of its rapid reaction forces from around 40,000 to more than 300,000. As General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg announced on Monday before the NATO summit in Madrid, the previous NATO intervention force NRF will also be rebuilt. She has been on alert for several months over tensions with Russia.
The planned transformation of the NRF is part of a new force model for the entire Alliance. This provides for more forces on high alert. In addition, forces should also be assigned to certain areas. This means that German soldiers could be scheduled to support Lithuanian troops in the event of a Russian attack.
According to information from NATO circles, the Bundeswehr’s contribution to the new concept could be the 10th Panzer Division, which leads brigades and battalions under its command from Veitshöchheim in Bavaria. “We assume that in 2025 we will be able to provide NATO with a fully modernized division with around 15,000 women and men – trained, equipped and therefore fully operational,” said General Inspector Eberhard Zorn in April. It was later made clear that this was to be the 10th Armored Division.
Reinforced protection of the east flank
Plans for increased protection of the eastern flank are also to be integrated into the new armed forces model. He expects that at the NATO summit beginning on Tuesday it will be made clear that the Allies view Russia as the “most significant and direct threat,” Stoltenberg said on Monday.
According to the Norwegian, the existing multinational NATO battlegroups in the member states on the eastern flank should therefore be expanded to brigade level. Currently, for example, the one in Lithuania includes 1600 soldiers. A brigade usually consists of around 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers.
Germany wants to lead brigade in Lithuania
Germany has already announced that it wants to lead the Combat Troops Brigade in Lithuania. In the country bordering on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, the Bundeswehr is currently the leading nation in the existing NATO battle group with around 1,000 soldiers. The Battlegroup is integrated into the Lithuanian Infantry Brigade «Iron Wolf».
In peacetime, the more than 300,000 rapid reaction forces in the future should generally be under national command, but could then be requested by the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe (Saceur) in an emergency. The troops would also be given fixed times for operational readiness. It is being discussed that some units should be ready for laying within 10 days at most, others in 30 or 50 days.
Details for emergencies are to be specified in new regional defense plans, which should be ready next year. If the NATO states report more than 300,000 rapid reaction forces to the alliance, this would correspond to around ten percent of the total military personnel. According to figures from Monday, it last included around 3.3 million men and women, around 1.3 million of whom were reported by the USA.
Start right after the G7 meeting
The NATO summit in Madrid begins this Tuesday just a few hours after the G7 meeting of the heads of state and government of the leading democratic industrial nations in Elmau. Among other things, NATO wants to decide on a new strategic concept. The current version dates from 2010. At that time, the Allies were still hoping that the time of great tension with Russia was over and were counting on a “real strategic partnership” with the country.
China was also not mentioned at all, which is now to change. The new concept will deal for the first time with China and the challenges it poses to NATO’s security, interests and values, Stoltenberg said on Monday.
It is unclear whether the summit will be overshadowed by Turkey’s continued refusal to agree to starting NATO accession talks with Finland and Sweden. The two countries had already applied to join the defense alliance in mid-May and hoped to be able to attend the Madrid summit as invited states. Turkey has so far blocked the admission process. She justifies this by saying that Finland and Sweden support “terrorist organizations” such as the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG – which both countries reject.