By Robin Emmott
MADRID (Reuters) – NATO leaders have agreed to put more than 300,000 troops on high alert from mid-2023, up from 40,000 currently, to counter Russia, the country designated by the alliance as posing the greatest threat over the next decade.
Here are the details of the force’s current “posture” and plans to update it to deter any future Russian attacks on NATO’s eastern flank, as well as react to other crises on NATO’s southern borders. ‘alliance.
CURRENT STANCE OF STRENGTH
– NATO has four multinational battalions in the three Baltic states and Poland, each numbering around 1,000 troops since 2017 and created in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
– This force presence has increased since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. NATO also activated its 40,000-strong Response Force, while the United States sent some 20,000 additional troops to Europe, bringing the number of American troops on the continent to 100,000.
– Including these multinational battalions and parts of the NATO Response Force, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) has over 42,000 troops under his command in Europe, with aircraft fighters on high alert and ships ready to react.
– SACEUR is also the commander of the US European Command, increasing the number of allied troops under his control.
– NATO also has national forces, but many are underfunded and lack the capacity to deploy quickly in conflict.
– NATO is setting up four more multinational battalions in Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Romania, with around 1,000 troops each.
– He also increased the number of aircraft in the southeast of the alliance territory to patrol the skies and protect NATO airspace.
– NATO will significantly increase the number of troops ready for combat and at a higher level of readiness, which means that they will be able to move quickly to defend Allied borders in the event of a conflict in Europe.
– NATO will create a three-level readiness system: 100,000 soldiers will be able to move into a conflict in 10 days; 200,000 soldiers can be deployed in 30 days; 500,000 soldiers can move in 180 days.
– The three levels are based on the following concept: tactical forces in Europe first; operational reserves follow; finally, NATO relies on American and Canadian forces across the Atlantic, called strategic reserves.
– These forces already exist within NATO but need more investment, training and equipment to be deployed quickly. High Readiness Forces will also include – and replace – the NATO Response Force.
– Basically, for the first time since the Cold War, forces will be assigned to specific regions, so that SACEUR has an overview of available troops at all times. Previously, NATO troops had to be ready for any threat at any time, which complicated preparation.
– The designation of forces in specific regions is already underway. German forces will be assigned to Lithuania, for example. A new headquarters in the Baltic nation will allow German soldiers stationed in Germany to spend limited peacetime periods in Lithuania, which borders the sensitive Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
– British troops are stationed in Estonia and Canadian troops in Latvia, two states that share borders with mainland Russia. Other allies have yet to come forward.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich)