NATO needs roads, bridges and other civilian infrastructure in Europe to meet its growing military requirements which needs coordination with national governments and the private sector, the alliance’s chief said ahead of a defense ministers meeting in Brussels.
Defense ministers from the 29 NATO states arrived in Brussels to begin discussions on the “revision” of the NATO Command Structure which envisions a new Command to protect sea lines between North America and Europe, and another Command to “improve the movement of troops and equipment within Europe.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg believes that a revision of its command structure is necessary to tackle the alleged threat from Russia. Thus, for the purpose of “deterrence and collective defense,” NATO wants European roads to be ready to handle the quick redeployment of tanks, artillery and other heavy equipment.
“This is not only about commands. We also need to ensure that roads and bridges are strong enough to take our largest vehicles, and that rail networks are equipped for the rapid deployment of tanks and heavy equipment,” Stoltenberg said Tuesday at the pre-ministerial press conference. “NATO has military requirements for civilian infrastructure, and we need to update these to ensure that current military needs are taken into account.”
NATO hopes that national governments and the private sector will cooperate to improve the needed infrastructure, emphasizing that the European Union has an “important role to play.”
While one new Command will take care of troop and equipment movement across Europe, the proposed Atlantic Command, Stoltenberg believes, would strengthen the military bloc’s “ability to protect the sea lines which are so critical for a transatlantic alliance.”
“We have to be able to move forces, troops, across the Atlantic from North America to Europe. And it will include a command which is focused on and responsible for the movement of troops within Europe, which is of course also of a great importance,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO currently has seven Commands with a total of some 7,000 personnel. At the height of the Cold War, NATO had 33 different Commands overseeing 22,000 personnel. Stoltenberg argued that the new command structure is needed to adapt to NATO’s reality in the present security climate.
“And we have been very focused on out-of-area expeditionary military operations, now we have to continue to be focused on expeditionary operations but at the same time increase the focus on collective defense in Europe, and that’s the reason why we are adopting the command structure,” Stoltenberg explained.
NATO also hopes that the new Command structure will be able integrate into the cyber domain. “In every military operation, in any foreseeable possible military mission or operation of NATO, there will be a cyber component, so cyber is more and more integrated into everything we do and therefore we will also as part of the review and the adaptation of the command structure we will also discuss how we can strengthen… the cyber element of the NATO command structure,” the NATO Secretary General said.
Russia has yet to comment on the proposed additions to NATO’s command structure. Moscow, though, has repeatedly voiced concerns over NATO’s buildup on Russia’s borders that has accelerated in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis. Late last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Moscow must undertake measures to tackle emerging threats on its western borders.
“We’re implementing a set of measures to neutralize the emerging challenges and threats,” Shoigu said. He added the Western Military District will receive more than 1,800 pieces of various new and modernized hardware by the end of this year.