Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the North Atlantic Alliance has proven its ability to mobilize for collective defense and effectively support Ukrainians fighting for their country, said today NATO’s top military leaders today.
Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the alliance’s military committee, stressed that the alliance is facing a new situation. “The purpose of this meeting was collective defence,” he said after a meeting of NATO military leaders. “There is no doubt that a new era has begun for NATO. Over the past few months, NATO has shown that it is capable [of swiftly and effectively changing] his pose. We have put in place the largest collective defense reinforcement in a generation.”
The 30-nation Atlantic alliance has capitalized on work started after Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 to rapidly bolster vulnerable frontline states. It’s all part of NATO’s new military strategy, which – Bauer said – is evolving even as Russia crossed the Ukrainian border on February 24. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine “has presented us with a new strategic reality,” Bauer said.
A reality that NATO countries can face.
At the meeting, Bauer said Allied defense chiefs heard from their Ukrainian counterpart. “We congratulated Ukraine for the willingness of all generations to fight for freedom,” Bauer said. “Ukraine will never accept Russian occupation and NATO will support Ukraine as long as necessary.”
The leaders also discussed what Putin’s war means for the alliance in the short and long term. “I want to emphasize that we are not just looking at the situation in Ukraine,” Bauer said. “With Finland and Sweden, and our Asia-Pacific partners – Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of South Korea – defense chiefs discussed how best to assess all global defensive alliances. It is really our opponent who determines the timeline. And that means we must always be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Ukraine fought the Russian army to a standstill and, in fact, drove it out of the capital of kyiv. The Ukrainians push back the Russians in the Donbass region. Bauer attributes the success – in part – to the difference in force morale. “There are many lessons to be learned from the war in Ukraine,” he said. “Most importantly, it proved once again the importance of morale, knowing what you are fighting for. The 3.2 million men and women in uniform who serve this alliance know exactly what they are fighting for: the protection of freedom and democracy; protecting our way of life.”
Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, Commander of European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, also spoke about Ukraine during the press conference. He noted that the allies provided the Ukrainian military with effective weapon systems against the overwhelming size of the Russian force.
“All of this makes a difference, helping Ukraine defend its people, its territory and its free and democratic future,” he said. The United States is helping lead these efforts “with speed and agility.” He noted that the United States had provided more than $4 billion in lethal aid since the invasion.
“For 84 days, our goal has been to help Ukraine win,” Wolters said. “In terms of alliance defence, we have responded in all areas, in all regions, to protect all allies. We have deployed elements of the NATO Response Force to reinforce our forward defense .”
There are now eight battle groups under NATO command deployed along the eastern flank. There are now more than 42,000 troops and 120 jet aircraft on high alert, with more than 20 ships ready to respond, he said. “Our land domain saw a 10-fold increase, the air domain a 50% increase in fighters patrolling the skies.”
The United States now has more than 100,000 military personnel in Europe to keep deterrence running, and the alliance has restarted training for Ukrainian military personnel. “Bottom line: NATO’s resolve and unity are greater than they’ve ever been,” Wolters said. “The performance of our Ukrainian partners in the face of this aggression has been very, very impressive.”
As NATO has changed to confront Russia, the alliance must continue to transform armed forces and military capabilities to meet new strategic realities, French Air and Space General Philippe Lavigne said. Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. “Transformation isn’t just technology, it’s innovation, it’s a shift in mindset, it’s people and their new skills,” he said. “Russian aggression in Ukraine and the consequences that the war has produced for the security of the Euro-Atlantic area are an additional trigger to accelerate the path of transformation.”
Lavigne said military leaders believe the alliance must continue to build its capabilities to engage and be able to operate in multi-domain operations: land, sea, air, space and cyber. “This is both a strategic challenge and an opportunity,” he said. “It’s a challenge, because we have to develop the capacity to deal and synchronize with multiple actors, military, governmental, civilian and industrial. And it’s also an opportunity because we will be stronger together.”