NATO Defence Ministers wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels on Thursday in which they focused on the Alliance’s adaptation to a more demanding security environment.
On Wednesday, Ministers discussed NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism and agreed to create a new regional Hub for the South, based at NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples. The Hub will assess and address threats from the Middle East and North Africa, engaging with partner nations and organisations.
Ministers also addressed NATO’s Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability and agreed to develop a follow-on capability for NATO AWACS planes after they retire around the year 2035. This will help the Alliance tackle challenges from the South, and anticipate crises.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that NATO’s continuous adaptation requires fairer burden-sharing among Allies. He noted that, after many years of cuts, defence spending in 2016 increased in real terms by 3.8% among European Allies and Canada. “It amounts to roughly 10 billion dollars more for our defence. This makes a difference, but it is absolutely vital that we keep up the momentum,” he added.
On Thursday, Allies agreed on the next steps to modernise the NATO Command Structure and reviewed progress on the deployment of new deterrent forces in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Secretary General stressed that these deployments are defensive and measured, saying “our aim is to prevent conflict, not to provoke it.” Allies also took steps to enhance NATO’s presence in the region, with more maritime training, exercises and situational awareness.
In a ministerial meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, Ministers praised Georgia’s defence reforms. Mr. Stoltenberg noted that Georgia is making good progress, and NATO will continue to help Georgia advance on its path towards membership.