NATO interim ‘spearhead’ force ready early 2015

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg poses with Norwegian army soldiers deployed in Latvia at Adazi military base November 21, 2014.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg poses with Norwegian army soldiers deployed in Latvia at Adazi military base November 21, 2014.

The first troops of a high-speed NATO reaction force designed to meet the sort of crisis highlighted by Russia’s Ukraine intervention should be ready early next year, officials said Monday.

NATO leaders agreed at a summit in September that the 28-member military alliance needed a new “spearhead” force which could be deployed within days to cope with emerging threats.

This “spearhead” force, estimated at around 4,000 troops is meant to be ready by 2016, but with eastern NATO allies nervous at Russian actions in Ukraine and Islamic State controlling large areas of Syria and Iraq, member states want something on the ground a lot faster.

To fill that role, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was working on an “interim high readiness force,” with Germany, the Netherlands and his native Norway willing to contribute troops.

This would give NATO “more readiness sooner than expected,” he said, adding that the new force “is going to be operational early next year.”

“This will make us even better prepared to deter and to defend against any crisis arising around our borders.”

The issue is due to be discussed Tuesday at a meeting of all 28 NATO foreign ministers at its Brussels HQ.

US Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute said separately it “looks as though there are sufficient lead nations (in Europe) to stand up this force” early next year.

The Wales summit in September recognized that NATO faced new challenges, highlighted in the sort of hybrid warfare seen in Ukraine, and the violent social and political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa.

The interim force to be deployed next year will serve as a test bed for the larger “spearhead” unit to follow in 2016, Lute said.

 
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