NATO to increase its rapid reaction force to 300,000 men


NATO will increase the size of its rapid reaction force eightfold to 300,000 soldiers as part of its response to an “era of strategic competition”, the secretary general of the military alliance said on Monday.

The NATO Response Force currently numbers around 40,000 soldiers who can deploy quickly if needed. Foreign Minister Anita Anand said in late March that Canada had up to 3,400 soldiers ready to serve in the NATO Response Force, made up of a mix of military, air force and and the navy.

Coupled with other measures, including the deployment of forces to defend specific allies, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move was part of the “larger overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War”.

Stoltenberg made the remarks at a press conference ahead of a NATO summit later this week in Madrid, when the 30 allies are also expected to agree additional support for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Stoltenberg said he expects the allies to make it clear that they view Russia “as the most significant and direct threat to our security.”

In NATO’s new strategic concept, the alliance should also address the security challenges posed by China for the first time, Stoltenberg said. In Madrid, the allies will discuss how to respond to the growing influence of Russia and China in their “southern neighbourhood”, he said.

A Belgian armed forces soldier stands next to a Dingo armored transport vehicle during international joint NATO Response Force military exercises near Munster, Germany, May 10. (Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

Stoltenberg said allies will agree to provide additional military support to Ukraine when they meet in Spain, with NATO members expected to adopt an “enhanced comprehensive assistance package”, including deliveries of communications systems secure and anti-drone.

In the long term, Stoltenberg said the allies aim to help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era weaponry to modern NATO equipment. The world’s seven largest economies on Monday underlined their commitment to Ukraine for “however long it takes”.

Impasse on Sweden, Finnish candidacies

Another central theme of the NATO summit will be the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NATO member Turkey has so far blocked applications, citing what it sees as the two countries’ soft approach to organizations Turkey considers terrorists, such as the Party Kurdistan Workers, or PKK.

Turkey calls on Sweden and Finland to grant the extradition requests for those wanted by the Turkish authorities. Ankara says the countries harbor members of the PKK as well as people it says are linked to a failed coup in 2016.

The stream15:34Why Turkey opposes Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Turkey is opposed to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. We chat with Steven Erlanger, chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for the New York Times; and Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Senior Researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Turkey also wants assurances that restrictions on weapons imposed by the two countries during Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northern Syria will be lifted.

Stoltenberg said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson agreed to meet on the sidelines of the summit.

“We have worked hard since Finland and Sweden applied for membership to ensure they can join the alliance as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg said. “I won’t make any promises, but I can assure you that we are actively working to get things done because Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO candidacies are historic.”