Alliance head Stoltenberg said Tuesday that efforts to boost EU defence spending were welcome, but only if they were coordinated with NATO plans, warning there was “no way” the EU could replace the transatlantic alliance in guaranteeing European security.
“It will be absolutely without any meaning if NATO and the EU start to compete. European allies are absolutely aware that the defence, the protection of Europe is dependent on NATO.”
The two-day meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels is expected to approve changes to NATO’s command structure aimed at making the alliance fit for the challenges of warfare in the 21st century, particularly cyber tactics and hybrid warfare, as fears grow about Russian assertiveness.
Stoltenberg said to reporters in a doorstep statement:
“Today and tomorrow, Defence Ministers will meet here in Brussels to prepare for our Summit in July. We will begin with a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group. Part of our regular consultations to keep NATO nuclear forces safe, secure and effective.We will also take decisions to modernise NATO’s Command Structure.
I expect we will agree to establish two new Commands. One for the Atlantic. And a support command for military mobility within Europe. As well as a new Cyber Operations Centre. Later today we will address defence spending and burden-sharing among Allies.
To keep our nations safe, we need more defence spending, investment in key capabilities, and forces for NATO missions and operations. In other words, more cash, capabilities and contributions. Last year, Allies decided to report annually on how they intend to deliver all three. And today, we will review how far we have come. The reports confirm that we have made substantial progress. But we still have a lot of work to do.
Tonight we will meet with High Representative / Vice President Federica Mogherini. As well as our colleagues from Sweden and Finland. Together we will discuss EU’s efforts on defence and NATO-EU cooperation. Done in the right way, these efforts can make a contribution to fairer burden-sharing between Europe and North America. Tomorrow we will focus on our progress in implementing our deterrence and defence posture. We will also discuss NATO’s role in projecting stability and the fight against terrorism.
NATO contributes to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS with AWACS surveillance flights and training for Iraqi forces. And the Coalition has made major progress. Liberating nearly all of the territory once held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But ISIS will remain a threat even when they no longer hold any territory. So training for the Iraqi forces is key.
In response to a request from the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition, I expect we will agree to begin planning for a NATO training mission in Iraq. This will put our presence on a firmer footing. With established procedures for generating forces and funding. This will help make Iraq safer. And us more secure.”
The EU’s ‘permanent structured cooperation on defence agreement’, known as PESCO, has projects in view already to develop new military equipment and improve cooperation and decision-making.
On Sunday a senior official working with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Washington had concerns some of the proposed initiatives risked “pulling resources or capabilities away from NATO”, according to reports.