US to propose expanding high readiness force at NATO defence minister summit

US to propose expanding high readiness force at NATO defence minister summit

Today, NATO defence ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss a US-sponsored plan to position additional forces in Europe to

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Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty

Today, NATO defence ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss a US-sponsored plan to position additional forces in Europe to deter Russian aggression.

US Secretary of State James Mattis’ plan seeks to add to NATO’s two existing rapid-response forces. He will today push for agreement on the creation of an additional one, requiring NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons and 30 battle ships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert.

The US has expressed concern that NATO forces would be unable to deploy fast enough to effectively counter a Russian attack. For example, a 2016 Rand Corporation study supports the US position that NATO partners like Britain, France and Germany would take about a month to deploy a brigade of only “three or more battalions” to Eastern Europe.

Expect support for Mattis’ proposal — with some pushback from alliance members the US will likely criticise for slow deployment — and from Russia, which the new forces are unequivocally seeking to deter.

The question of whether Mattis’ proposal will produce the desired effect depends on how convincingly the “rapid-response” factor is conveyed to intended audiences. Indeed, Mattis’s proposal remains logistically unclear on the timing of implementation and exact troop levels.

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