As Russia and China have invested heavily in military equipment in recent years, NATO is massively stepping up its military presence in Europe.
“We are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
In particular, the western alliance is increasing its presence in Eastern Europe, Stoltenberg said, “This is only the beginning” of an important adaptation to new security realities in Europe, Stoltenberg told a meeting of top allied military officials.
He spoke at the NATO Transformation Seminar, an annual strategic brainstorming conference that brings together NATO’s leadership with experts and top officials from the host country. The event is organized by the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
“The focus of this year’s seminar is to think through how best to update NATO’s strategy, given real threats in the east and the south, against the backdrop of a dramatically changing world,” said Damon Wilson, a former presidential advisor who is now with the Atlantic Council.
“The practical focus is to begin developing the road map to the next NATO summit, which will take place in Warsaw in July 2016, a summit which will presumably be the capstone and last summit for the Obama administration”, Wilson said
Stoltenberg described NATO’s future strategy as mastering a “hybrid war”, which combines the power of unconventional means such as cyber and information operations, and disguised military operations, much like the activities of Russia in Crimea and Ukraine over the past year – with every hybrid strategy being based on strong conventional forces.
NATO must “sharpen our early warning and situational awareness”, the former Prime Minister of Norway said, “so we know when an attack is an attack. Hybrid warfare seeks to exploit any weakness.”
Stoltenberg reiterated the alliance’s stance on treating a cyber attack against one member as an attack against the entire alliance.
“Cyber is now a central part of virtually all crisis and conflicts”, he said, adding that “cyber attacks can potentially trigger an Article 5 response.”
Stoltenberg called upon the 28 NATO member states to develop a sense of urgency when it comes to military spending. While the west has cut defense budgets for years, Russia and China have invested heavily in new tanks, new ships and long-range missiles.
“We have no longer the advance in defense technology”, Stoltenberg said. “We now need the political will and the resources to increase our capabilities.”