NATO Defence Ministers wrapped up two days of discussions in Brussels on Thursday (27 June 2019). Ministers addressed Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, progress on burden sharing, NATO’s defence and deterrence posture, new technologies and NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.
Today, Ministers approved a new overarching space policy. This will guide NATO’s approach to space, the opportunities and challenges. “We can play an important role as a forum to share information, increase interoperability, and ensure that our missions and operations can call on the support they need,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Ministers also addressed NATO’s defence and deterrence posture, including the Readiness Initiative. By 2020, Allies will make available 30 combat ships, 30 land battalions, 30 air squadrons, to be ready within 30 days. The Secretary General announced that Allies have already generated around three-quarters of the forces required. “There is still work to do, but by the end of the year, we aim to be at full strength,” he said.
Afghanistan was also high on the agenda, with a meeting of all nations contributing to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and with participation from the United Nations, European Union, World Bank, and Afghan Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid. “While many challenges remain in Afghanistan, we now have a unique opportunity for peace,” said the Secretary General. He underlined that Allies fully support U.S. efforts to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan. Mr. Stoltenberg also announced that Allies have recently generated forces for the next rotation, and confirmed financial support for the Afghan security forces through 2024. “We will stay in Afghanistan for as long as necessary, to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.
On Wednesday, Ministers discussed Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty and the Alliance’s response. Allies continue to urge Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance with the INF Treaty. However, Russia continues to produce and deploy SSC-8 missiles and therefore NATO is preparing for a world without the Treaty. Ministers agreed that the Alliance will respond should Russia fail to return to compliance. “We will not mirror what Russia does. We do not want a new arms race, but at the same time we must continue to maintain credible deterrence and defence,” said the Secretary General. He stressed that Russia still has a chance to save the INF Treaty and Allies will convey this message at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council next week.
Ministers also discussed progress on burden sharing, in terms of cash, capabilities and contributions. “Fair burden sharing underpins everything we do as an Alliance, and we are making major progress,” said the Secretary General. He noted that 2019 will be the fifth consecutive year of real growth in defence spending by European Allies and Canada, and by the end of 2020, Allies will have added a cumulative total of well over one hundred billion dollars. Mr. Stoltenberg stressed that burden sharing will be an important topic at the meeting of NATO leaders in London in December.