NATO Enhances Rapid Response Forces, Policies

Brussels NATO defense ministers addressed a raft of security challenges at their defense ministerial this week, including strengthening collective defense measures set up in the aftermath of last year’s Crimea crisis. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, traveling in Europe, previewed some of these measures prior to his arrival in Brussels, where he attended a meeting of the North Atlantic Council and met with counterparts. On June 24, the Alliance’s 28 defense ministers moved to add air, sea, and special forces components to its new “spearhead force,” or the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters during a press availability. These “new steps to strengthen our collective defense” are crucial to NATO’s ability to respond to threats faster and more effectively. Stoltenberg’s announcement came after traveling from Poland where he observed Exercise Noble Jump, an interim VJTF exercise involving some 2,100 troops from nine NATO countries, an event he said “sends a very clear signal” about the Alliance’s intentions to solidify its response capabilities. In addition, the defense ministers approved policy changes to speed up NATO political and military decision-making processes, including giving the Supreme Allied Commander Europe more authority to conduct advance planning for potential contingencies as well as setting up six new logistics headquarters within the NATO structure to support VJTF, said a senior NATO policy official, speaking on background.