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The Pentagon and its NATO allies are now shaping a future alliance posture to accommodate a different global dynamic following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Pentagon to solidify collaborative plans to ensure the alliance remains firm and well resourced to confront a continued Russian threat.
Following the invasion of Ukraine many European countries have not only contributed funds and weapons to Ukraine but have also increased their own defense spending in response to a new European threat landscape.
In his meeting with Stoltenberg, Austin emphasized the importance of NATO members increasing and sustaining their military funding in support of the alliance.
"Let me just say that spending 2% of [gross domestic product on defense] is a floor and not a ceiling," he said. "It's also important to increase the amount of common funding so that NATO has the resources that it needs to accomplish the tasks our leaders assigned us, and we fully support your efforts and applaud your efforts to ensure that NATO has the resources that it needs," Austin said, according to a Pentagon report.
Consistent and sustained military funding from NATO members would not only ensure a strong ready force but also further fortify collaborative modernization efforts, multinational interoperability and a massive expansion in potential areas of operation.
Strong European NATO members also add sizable deterrence advantages to the West given that they are on the same continent as Russia and in position to respond quickly.
The dissolution of the INF Treaty means countries such as Poland and even Germany to some extent can operate medium-range missiles capable of striking Russia from as far as 600 to 1,000 miles away.
Key NATO allies such as Poland and Germany, for example, are not only increasing the size and technological sophistication of their respective militaries but also acquiring US-built systems capable of ensuring multinational connectivity.
Abrams Tank & F-35
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Interestingly, the F-35 is arguably a digital threat of continuity through which a multinational NATO force can grow much stronger and more capable. The expansive list of existing F-35 partner countries throughout Europe, combined with more recent F-35 customers such as Switzerland, Finland and Germany, means that a very large European continental force of stealthy 5th-generation air power will strengthen NATO’s deterrence posture.
This dynamic is also improved by a common technical infrastructure throughout the various F-35 customers, meaning that all F-35s can quickly network and securely share data across a multinational 5th-generation force using Multi-function Advanced Datalink (MADL)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is evolving its posture and expanding it scope to adjust to a new threat equation throughout the European continent driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The United States’ Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Julianne Smith, said she hopes Finland and Sweden will join an upcoming alliance conference in Madrid.
“The two nations, long NATO partners, have military capabilities that would fit seamlessly into the alliance. The hope is that those two countries will join us in Madrid as invitees," Smith said.
At the upcoming Madrid conference, Smith explained, NATO leaders are expected to reevaluate force positioning and its overall structural alignment with deployments,
“There is a force-posture piece to discussions in Madrid. The allies — including the United States — have sent thousands of service members to the alliance's frontline states to deter Putin.
The number of NATO battle groups in those states increased from four to eight. Biden has pledged to defend every inch of NATO territory. The allies will discuss how the long-range footprint of NATO forces in Europe should look,” Smith said."What over the medium- and long-term should the alliance be looking to do in that neighborhood to reinforce NATO's eastern flank?"
Alongside deliberations about adjustments to longer-term force posture questions, NATO leaders are also looking specifically at new kinds of weapons threats posed by potential enemies in light of a fast-changing technological environment.
"A heavier emphasis on things like emerging and disruptive technologies, heavier emphasis on new domains like cyber and space, [and] more on climate change," Smith said.
A stronger, better networked and expanded NATO would greatly impact the security situation on the European continent by dispersing a larger, more technologically advanced force in position to respond quickly to any critics. Should Sweden and Finland join NATO, for instance, the alliance would be well positioned to respond quickly should Russia seek to invade or take over the Baltics.
NATO air assets, for example, could be pre positioned in Finland bordering Russia and help open up an attack corridor from NATO forces from the North supported by Poland to the South. In addition to supporting a range of contingencies, a force presence in Finland could also greatly reinforce the alliance’s deterrence posture.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.