Shaping a More Effective Deterrent Capability: NATO Modernizes Its Command Structure:


2017-11-11 At the recent NATO Defense Ministers meeting held on November 8, 2017 in Brussels, the Ministers decided to modernize the NATO command structure.

As a story published on November 8, 2017 by Radio Free Europe noted:

NATO defense ministers have endorsed a plan to establish two new military headquarters designed to improve the movement of troops across the Atlantic and within Europe, as the alliance looks to counter the growing threat from Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made the announcement on November 8, the day before an expected decision to boost NATO’s mission in Afghanistan by some 3,000 troops.

Speaking after the ministers’ first day of meetings during the November 8-9 gathering in Brussels, Stoltenberg provided initial details on the two new commands, although he said military commanders would “flesh out the details” and present them to defense ministers in February 2018.

It is the first time the 29-member alliance is expanding its command structure since the end of the Cold War, when 22,000 personnel were working at 33 commands. Numbers have been slashed since to fewer than 7,000 people and seven commands.

In recent years, Russia’s military actions in Ukraine have increased concerns about Moscow’s intentions in NATO nations, particularly former Soviet republics or Warsaw Pact satellites of the Soviet Union.

Russia occupied and seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backs separatists whose war against Kyiv’s forces has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April of that year.

A series of potentially dangerous close encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes and navy ships in recent months has added to the tension, with the alliance accusing Moscow of aggressive maneuvers in the air and at sea.

Those actions have prompted NATO to step up its defenses in the east, deploying four multinational battle groups in the three Baltic states and Poland — totaling approximately 4,500 troops.

One of the planned new NATO command centers will be tasked with ensuring that “sea lines of communication” between North America and Europe “remain free and secure,” Stoltenberg said.

The other command will “improve the movement of military forces across Europe” and strengthen logistical functions across NATO.

In his speech to the Ministers, The Sec Gen of NATO had this to say about the change:

We took further decisions to continue NATO’s adaptation to the challenges we face.

A key component of our adaptation is a robust and agile command structure.  This underpins both our strengthened deterrence and defence posture and our ability to project stability beyond NATO’s borders.

At the Warsaw Summit last year, we decided to launch an assessment of the NATO command structure in light of the changed security environment. To ensure it can do the job across the full spectrum of Alliance missions. Today, we agreed on the outline design for an adapted NATO Command Structure, which will be the basis for further work.

Let me mention some key elements.

A Command for the Atlantic, to ensure that sea lines of communication between Europe and North America remain free and secure. This is vital for our transatlantic Alliance.

A new Command to improve the movement of military forces across Europe. And ways to strengthen the logistical function across the NATO Command Structure. Our military commanders will now flesh out the details. And the results of their work will be presented to Defence Ministers next February.            

The adaptation of the NATO Command Structure will further strengthen our ability to reinforce Allies quickly and effectively. But military mobility is not only about new commands. It’s also about the ability to move forces and equipment quickly, with the right transport means and the right infrastructure. Since 2014, we have made good progress in improving national legislation. Removing many bureaucratic hurdles to allow us to move forces across Allied territory. But much more needs to be done. We need to ensure that national legislation facilitating border crossing is fully implemented. We need enough transport capacity at our disposal, which largely comes from the private sector. And we need to improve infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railways, runways and ports. So NATO is now updating the military requirements for civilian infrastructure. 

Of course, military mobility is not just about the military. It requires a whole-of-government approach. So it’s important that our defence ministers make our interior, finance and transport ministers aware of military requirements.  

It’s also important that NATO coordinates with the European Union and we are indeed working closely and actively together on this issue. For instance, we share information on standards, requirements, as well as challenges related to civilian infrastructure. So I envisage that military mobility could become a real flagship of NATO-EU cooperation.

Finally, we discussed ways to strengthen our cyber defences. We must be just as effective in the cyber domain as we are on land, at sea and in the air, with real-time understanding of the threats we face and the ability to respond however and whenever we choose. Today, ministers agreed on the creation of a new Cyber Operations Centre as part of the outline design for the adapted NATO Command Structure.

This will strengthen our cyber defences, and help integrate cyber into NATO planning and operations at all levels. We also agreed that we will be able to integrate Allies’ national cyber capabilities into NATO missions and operations.

While nations maintain full ownership of those capabilities.

Just as Allies own the tanks, the ships and aircraft in NATO missions.