As the specter of conflict with Russia looms over Europe, NATO defense ministers decided Wednesday to expand the alliance’s operations for the first time since the Cold War, sharpen its focus on cyber operations, and boost its capability to respond to Kremlin aggression.
The moves came as tensions with Russia remain the highest they have been in the nearly three decades since the end of the Cold War. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed fellow defense ministers Wednesday morning about Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, underlining the nuclear risk that is a worst-case consequence of the bitter back-and-forth.
Defense ministers approved plans that would bolster their ability to keep an eye on Russian submarines in the Atlantic Ocean, where crucial undersea communications are at risk of being cut. They committed to establishing a command dedicated to sweeping away barriers preventing their forces from being deployed quickly across Europe in the event of war. And they said that cyberweapons would now have as big a role in NATO planning as guns and tanks.