According to a statement made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Tuesday, the alliance has approved plans to establish two new commands as a part of a broader effort to modernize the NATO command structure and counter Russian aggression.

We have just finished a very productive meeting of Defense Ministers. Where we took major decisions to modernize the NATO Command Structure.” Stoltenberg told reporters at a press conference.

“At the end of the Cold War, NATO had 22,000 staff working in 33 commands. Today, the command structure is reduced to fewer than 7,000 staff in 7 commands. But the security environment in Europe has changed, and so NATO is responding.”

Stoltenberg went on to outline four significant changes to the NATO command structure agreed upon by the committee of national defense officials. Those changes include the establishment of a new Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, tasked with protecting sea lines of communication between North America and Europe, as well as the establishment of a new support Command for logistics, reinforcement and military mobility. Those two new commands are expected to be housed in the United States and Germany respectively.

Further, Stoltenberg explained plans to designate additional land components throughout Europe, continuing with a recent trend of fortifying Europe’s eastern flank in the wake of Russia’s military annexation of Crimea in 2014. Finally, a new Cyber Operations Center will be stood up at NATO’s military headquarters.

The threat emanating from Russia, out-of-area operations and concerns about the alliance’s southern flank mean NATO must respond,” he said.

Stoltenberg also addressed the continuing concerns presented by American President Donald Trump, and recently conveyed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis about NATO nations failing to meet their spending obligations to the alliance. The NATO charter mandates that each nation devote at least two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defense spending, though to date, only a handful have managed it, with the United States outspending the rest of the allies by a significant margin.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on February 14th. (DoD Photo)

Despite the slow progress among many NATO nations to meet that spending criteria, Stoltenberg was optimistic, crediting 15 of the 28 member-states for establishing and implementing plans aimed at reaching the goal.

After years of decline, since 2014 we have seen three years of increasing defense spending across Europe and Canada. Amounting to an additional 46 billion US dollars. And the national plans show that in the coming years, we can expect further increases.” He said.

The Secretary General also pointed out that five more nations have met the spending goal than had four years ago, clearly aware that Defense Secretary James Mattis had presented his concerns about burden sharing directly to his international peers earlier in the week.

In 2014, only 3 Allies spent 2% of GDP or more on defense. This year, we expect 8 Allies to meet or exceed the target. And by 2024, we expect at least 15 Allies will spend 2% of GDP or more on defense. This is an encouraging start. But we have to do more.”


Image courtesy of the Department of Defense