Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan and his fellow NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels to assess the effectiveness of the alliance’s deterrence of Russia, as well as other security challenges, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday.
At a news conference yesterday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg frankly discussed Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and he stressed that all NATO allies agreed with the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Cold War treaty.
“Moscow continues to develop and deploy several battalions of the SSC-8 missile, despite the efforts of the United States and other NATO allies – over many years – to encourage Russia to return to compliance,” he said. “We all know that a treaty that is only respected by one side cannot keep us safe, and that is why the United States, with the full support of all NATO allies, has announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty.”
The secretary general said NATO does not want a new arms race. He said Russia can still return to compliance with the treaty, and he urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to take that opportunity.
“At the same time, we are planning for a world without the INF Treaty,” Stoltenberg said. “At this meeting of defense ministers, we will discuss what steps NATO should take to adapt to a world with more Russian missiles and maintain effective deterrence and defense.”
Steps to counter Russia “will be coordinated, measured, and defensive, and we do not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe,” he said.
The defense ministers also will address the alliance’s readiness initiative that calls for 30 combat ships, 30 battalions and 30 air squadrons to be available within 30 days.
Burden sharing and defense spending will be high on the defense ministers’ agenda, he said, noting that all allies have submitted reports on their national plans to meet the alliance’s Defense Investment Pledge. “We will review progress on all three dimensions of the pledge: cash, capabilities and contributions,” Stoltenberg said. “On all three measures, the trend is up.”
The secretary general said the European allies and Canada have spent a cumulative $41 billion more on defense since 2016. “This will rise to $100 billion by next year,” he added.
The ministers will discuss NATO missions and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. “In Afghanistan, the situation remains difficult, but we also see efforts for peace,” the secretary general said. “The allies have been kept closely updated by the United States. We continue to consult on the implications of a possible peace deal and how NATO can support it.”
It is too early to say what shape a deal might take, or even if a deal is possible, he said, but the alliance continues to help the Afghan security forces create the conditions for a peaceful solution. “What is clear is this: we went into Afghanistan together, and together we will determine our future posture based on conditions we determine with the Afghans,” he added.
He noted that the alliance’s training mission in Iraq is up and running. The NATO effort will work to ensure Iraq can prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or other terrorist groups.
NATO troops are still in Kosovo working to ensure stability in the Western Balkans region. “We will review the level of our support for the Kosovo Security Force after the change of its mandate,” Stoltenberg said.