NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels on June 3-4 agreed to steps to strengthen collective defense in response to the Ukraine crisis.
Caption: Rasmussen with Ukraine's acting defense minister, Col.Gen. Mykhailo Koval, during the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NATO photo)
A readiness action plan will be prepared for the NATO summit to be held in Wales in September, including measures to increase the readiness of the NATO Response Force and allied intelligence and awareness, preposition equipment and supplies, and enhance exercises. During his press conference following the first day of the defense ministers meeting, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative announced by the Obama administration would help finance the prepositioning of equipment and supplies and exercises.
Allied defense ministers also agreed to intensify their efforts to fill key capability gaps in terms of equipment and personnel development to increase training and readiness of NATO forces across the board.
NATO defense ministers approved a German initiative on framework nations grouping allies together to develop the forces and capabilities needed to meet NATO requirements and face new security challenges. This includes a seven-nation initiative led by the UK to develop a joint expeditionary force.
Ministers adopted a new NATO cyber defense policy aimed at improving allied information sharing and mutual assistance, NATO cyber defense training and exercises, and cooperation with industry.
Rasmussen welcomed the decision by Denmark, Germany and Poland to start work to increase the readiness of Multinational Corps North East in Poland for strengthening "our ability to address future threats and challenges in the region," adding that "it is a significant contribution to our collective defense.” The three countries will reinforce the headquarters staff of the corps, which does not command troops in peacetime, so that it can plan operations and exercises more quickly.
Rasmussen also praised Poland for its annoucement that it would raise defense spending to two percent of gross domestic product, adding that Latvia, Lithuania and Romania also plan to gradually increase their defense spending to this level. In his press conference on June 4, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the Czech Republic had made a similar commitment.
NATO defense ministers also met their Ukrainian counterpart, Col.Gen. Mykhailo Koval, in the NATO-Ukraine Commission, on June 3, agreeing to finalize a package of measures aimed at increasing the capacity and strength of the Ukrainian armed forces in the next few weeks.