At the NATO Defence Ministerial Meeting in Brussels on February 13-14, NATO Defence Ministers and officials discussed pressing security challenges, reviewed past and ongoing operations and identified efforts to strengthen the Alliance.
In our first Quarterly Security Briefing, Friends of Europe addressed the results and outcomes of the Ministerial Meeting and their implications for the transatlantic security alliance in 2019. The debate, held under the Chatham House Rule, focused on four essential topics: the question of burden sharing within the alliance, the “Four Thirties” Readiness initiative, the future of the INF Treaty as well as the current situation in Afghanistan.
In order to strengthen the alliance and to improve the effectiveness of its structures, NATO members have decided to take several actions. Following the 2014 Wales summit, NATO members had agreed to increase their financial contribution to meet the target of spending 2% of their annual GDP on defence and 20% of the overall defence budget on capabilities until 2024. $40bn has been added to the budget and until 2020 another $100bn are expected to be contributed by Canada and European allies.
Furthermore, in July 2018, allies committed to the “Four Thirties” Readiness Initiative, which will ensure 30 combat ships, 30 land battalions and 30 air squadrons, are ready to deploy within 30 days or less. With regard to future capabilities, participants stressed the importance of early involvement of the defence industry in the planning process and increased investment in military personnel.
Following the decision of the US and Russia to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), it is now of utmost importance to restore Russian compliance and return both parties to the treaty within the next six months. To achieve this aim, NATO will rely on its so-called ‘three Ds’: (effective) deterrence, defence and dialogue. Up to now, there is no blueprint to replace the INF Treaty, but a new treaty should ideally include other nuclear powers. Participants also pointed to the growing risks posed by nuclear proliferation. NATO nuclear powers need to avoid using threatening language to prevent further escalation.
With regard to the mission in Afghanistan, NATO allies have declared that they started the operation together and will, therefore, take a joint decision on future engagement in Afghanistan. This declaration came after the US announced progress in its peace talks with the Taliban and possible future withdrawal of US forces from the country.
For the Leaders Meeting in London in December, NATO officials hope that significant progress will have been made in terms of cash, capabilities and contributions (3 Cs) in order to improve its responsiveness, readiness and reinforcement (3 Rs).