WASHINGTON – NATO military planners have begun weighing options for beefing up the defensive capabilities of vulnerable alliance members following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.
Potential force changes spanning the land, air, naval and cyber domains are expected to be ready for decisions by national leaders at the NATO summit in Madrid in late June, he told reporters in Brussels.
“On land, our new posture should include substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance, at higher readiness, with more prepositioned equipment and supplies,” Stoltenberg said. “In the air, more allied air power and strengthened integrated air and missile defense. At sea, carrier strike groups, submarines and significant numbers of combat ships on a persistent basis.”
On top of the expected increases, alliance members also would “train and exercise more often, and in greater numbers,” Stoltenberg added.
NATO members formerly part of the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact have asked for more assistance, as they fear Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine could portend a broader push to restore a Soviet-esque sphere of influence for Moscow.
Stoltenberg on Wednesday again rejected the idea of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, arguing such a move would set up a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. He called averting such escalation the alliance’s “responsibility,” as Western leaders try desperately to hasten an end to the war through diplomacy, economic pressure and with weapon shipments to Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, were still able to keep Russian advances at bay thanks to Western military support, raising the cost for Moscow and tempering the Putin regime’s appetite for outlandish demands in negotiations with Kyiv.
That dynamic, Stoltenberg suggested, was starting to bear fruit. “We support Ukraine because we know what they can achieve on the negotiating table is of course very closely linked to the situation on the battlefield,” he said. “So I strongly also believe that one reason why the Ukrainians also are saying that they have seen some steps in the right direction is because they have been able to fight back.”
In the United States, meanwhile, defense officials have already begun their own planning of what forces Washington could offer in support of NATO’s renewed deterrence push.
Assistant Defense Secretary for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities Mara Karlin told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month the Pentagon would be re-examining the Global Posture Review, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s most recent troop allocation plan.
“We recognize this dynamic situation now requires us to give it another fine-tooth look, to see what’s necessary to ensure that we’ve got deterrence of Russia and that we can absolutely 150% say that NATO is safe and secure,” Karlin said.
Joe Gould contributed to this story.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.