NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sounded the alarm regarding the military buildup of Russia in the in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and the Mediterranean.
Speaking at a press conference during the NATO’s Trident Juncture military exercises in Portugal, General Stoltenberg expressed concern that Russia’s increased military presence in those areas could limit the ability of the United States and its allies to access to strategic areas in certain regions.
“This is a military buildup, which provides the Russians with what many experts call Area Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities,” said General Stoltenberg.
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According to him, NATO must ensure that they can overcome Russia’s capabilities and “reinforce and deploy forces if needed.”
General Stoltenberg said, “The question on our agenda now is how to overcome, how to deal with the increased A2/AD capabilities of Russia in the Baltic, the Black Sea and now in the Mediterranean.” He also emphasized that NATO should reinforce its forces all the time.
On Wednesday, the leaders of nine Eastern European NATO member nations demanded the alliance to increase its presence in Europe. They felt threatened by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Islamic State’s activities.
No imminent threat against NATO allies
During a press conference in Zaragoza, Spain, General Stoltenberg said there was no imminent threat against any NATO allies. He emphasized that the NATO military exercises were intended to show that they are ready to defend and protect all allies against any threat. The military exercises also serve as deterrence.
“By having a strong collective defense through NATO, we are able to provide the necessary deterrence and a clear message to any adversary that we will protect all allies,” said General Stoltenberg.
He also emphasized that NATO is the strongest military alliance in the world, and it can protect all allies. However, he noted that the world is changing so NATO has to change including the establishment of a new, very high readiness joint task force or the Spearhead Force, which will be led by Spain next year.
Furthermore, Gen. Stoltenberg pointed out that the military exercise shows that the NATO allies although they have military services and forces are united. They are acting in unity, which is the most important thing for NATO to deliver its message of deterrence.
NATO aims to modernize guideline on military exercises
When asked about observers, General Stoltenberg also pointed out that every nation has the right to conduct military exercises. According to him, NATO was able to provide predictability and transparency related to its military exercises, which is more important than ever.
According to him, NATO is predictable and transparent with its military exercises because it wants to avoid accidents or incidents that spiral out of control and create a dangerous situation.
General Stoltenberg said NATO and Russia agreed on guidelines and procedures for notifying military exercises. He was concerned because the current regulations or requirements have exceptions for snap exercises and smaller exercises. He noted that Russia is conducting many non-notified exercises.
Russia does not invite observers to its military exercises because it believes that it is not required to do so. General Stoltenberg said, “This is a reason for concern but even more important, this is a reason to modernize the guidelines, the agreements we have, so we make sure that there is a mutual understanding that we invite observers to our exercises.”
General Stoltenberg said NATO will find ways to modernize the guidelines and procedures on military exercises to ensure transparency. Russian Envoy Alexander Grushko recentky noted that NATO’s military policy on Russia shifted from partnership to deterrence.
NATO’s Trident Juncture military exercises involve 36,000 forces from more than 30 countries. The drills, which includes more than 230 units 140 aircraft and over 60 ships started on October 19 until November 6.
NATO is conducting the military exercises to improve its ability to respond to different new security threats from different groups including Russia, which became more assertive, and Muslim terrorists groups that are active in the Middle East and North Africa.