Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, says that NATO started to increase its presence along its eastern border “years” before Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine.
Speaking to the media at a press conference at the NATO Military Committee Conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on Saturday, Bauer spoke about the ‘deter and defend strategy’ approved in 2020. The plan ensures that alliance military commanders have a shared understanding of alliance-wide and regional threats and that NATO boosts the speed and effectiveness of its rapid-deployment troops. It is the most significant reorganisation of NATO’s military formations since 1949. He said that the Alliance began preparing for this some years ago but is now executing it.
The Alliance’s Military Committee meets twice a year at NATO Headquarters in Brussels for Chiefs of Defense Sessions, and once a year, a Conference is hosted by an Allied member state. The Military Committee meets to review NATO operations, missions, and activities and to give the North Atlantic Council unrestricted, consensus-based military advice on how the Alliance can handle global security concerns most effectively. The permanent Military Representatives at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels are responsible for its day-to-day operations.
Support for Ukraine
Bauer said that during Saturday’s meeting, NATO military chiefs emphasised the need to “sustain” and “expand” “allied assistance to Ukraine.”
Ammunition, equipment, and training provided by friends and other countries have a significant influence on the battlefield. Ukraine’s accomplishments on the battlefield and online have fundamentally altered the nature of contemporary combat, the commander said. He added that NATO would back Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Alongside Bauer, Estonian Defense Forces head Martin Herem said that NATO’s collective objective was to “deny Russia the opportunity to alter the current rule-based international order,” including by stationing more soldiers along its border.
Forward defence is not only determined by the number of allied troops on the eastern border. Each link in the chain must be present. Herem said that this entails having the proper mix of national and allied troops, known reinforcements, advanced plans connected to assigned forces, and assigned C2 [command and control].
Herem echoed Bauer’s remarks on the necessity to “help” Kyiv and emphasised the need to ensure the cohesiveness and unity of the Alliance. Winter will be challenging, but [NATO] must remain together and devoted in the coming months.
NATO gains more land to protect, while Russia gets an even more lengthy border. However, NATO also acquired a competent armed force from Finland and Sweden to assist NATO in defending the additional territory. Bauer claimed that Russia’s border with NATO would expand without receiving more soldiers but did not mention that Russia already has armed forces targeting the two new yet-to-be-inducted countries. Bauer said that he considers the admission of Finland and Sweden to be advantageous for the Alliance and problematic for Russia.
The officer said that the execution of the agreements made at the June summit in Madrid regarding the fortification of the bloc’s eastern border is “ongoing”, and there are no issues to report on this front.
At the Madrid summit, NATO resolved to deploy “strong and combat-ready troops on the Alliance’s eastern flank” and to establish four new battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The United States, for its part, established a new ground facility in Poland, around 280 kilometres southwest of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and sent an additional 3,000 soldiers to Romania. Previously, the United States also increased its military presence in Europe by 20,000 soldiers, bringing the total to 100,000. In addition, the United States sent two extra squadrons of F-35 fighter fighters to the United Kingdom and dispatched two additional warships to Naval Station Rota in Spain, for a total of six.
Heightening Tensions With Russia
Between 1999 and 2020, NATO had many waves of expansion, incorporating every former member of the defunct Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, three ex-Soviet republics, and four republics from the former Yugoslavia. The extension occurred despite the verbal commitment made by former US Secretary of State James Baker to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 not to extend the alliance “one inch” east of the territory of former East Germany after its takeover by the Federal Republic.
In 2008, NATO acknowledged the desires of the pro-Western governments of Ukraine and Georgia to join the Alliance, provoking Moscow’s worries. The 2014 escalation of tensions between Russia and the West was precipitated by the Washington-orchestrated ouster of the Ukrainian government and Kyiv’s reaffirmation of its desire to join the European Union and NATO.
Late in 2021, Russia presented NATO and the United States with a pair of proposed security pacts intended to significantly reduce tensions and strengthen ties between Moscow and the Western bloc. The draft treaties proposed legally enforceable, written pledges by Russia, the United States, and NATO not to deploy soldiers, planes, warships, and missile systems in regions where they may be seen as a danger to the national security of the opposing side. NATO was urged to commit to halting its eastward expansion and abandoning ambitions to include Ukraine and other former Soviet republics into the Alliance. It was also urged that the Western Alliance not deploy more troops or military systems on the territory of those NATO members who joined after the Cold War.
The United States and NATO rejected Russia’s security guarantee offers, with officials reiterating the Western bloc’s “open door” stance for membership.