NATO holds its next summit in Brussels on 11-12 July 2018. Defence Ministers meet on 7-8 June to finalise plans for the summit.

At the summit, NATO is expected to announce a new Atlantic Command and a new European Logistics Command. Both are driven by concerns about Russia’s military behaviour in the last few years.

The Atlantic Command is a response to Russia’s increased activity in the Atlantic. The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has referred to a “significant increase” in submarine activity in the north Atlantic. The Command is rumoured to be likely established in the US. In addition, there is talk of a new maritime strategy.

The European Logistics Command recognises the need to ensure NATO troops can move easily across Alliance territory. Over the last few years NATO has actively bolstered defence capabilities along its eastern flank to act as a deterrent to Russia. The next step is to ensure troops can easily reinforce them or move quickly to wherever they may be needed. NATO says it is also looking at ways to improve the speed of decision-making and to empower the Supreme Commander to move forces around NATO. The UK is actively involved in NATO’s ‘deterrence and defence’ policy: the UK leads one of the Enhanced Forward Presence deployments in Estonia and RAF Typhoons are patrolling the skies from Romania over the Black Sea. That said, a senior NATO official has clearly stated that “NATO does not see the threat of a massive Russian military invasion of any NATO country.”

NATO is also adding a cyber operation centre into the command structure. NATO declared cyberspace as an operational domain – alongside land, sea and air – in 2016. Again, this reflects growing concern about the use of cyberspace by Russia and others to “intimidate and destabilise”.

Burden-sharing, and meeting NATO’s target to spend 2% of GDP on defence, will figure highly at the Summit. President Trump has been particularly vocal about the need for European allies to spend more on defence. And, aside from the actual monetary figure, a key factor is where the money is being spent: NATO Allies need the defence capabilities to contribute to NATO operations and missions.

Countering instability and terrorism emanating from NATO’s southern flank will also be discussed. Tackling terrorism is not NATO’s primary task but, as with migration across the Mediterranean, it has supported the response of European Allies. NATO’s assistance will include a new package support for Jordan, a new capacity building package for Tunisia and a new training mission in Iraq. The Alliance will also reaffirm its commitment to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

The Defence Committee is looking into US, NATO and UK defence relations and heard from the Secretary of State for Defence on 22 May 2018. The Lords International Relations Committee will shortly publish a report on the NATO Summit after taking evidence from senior NATO and FCO officials.

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