NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the Western military alliance will increase the size of its rapid reaction forces nearly eightfold to 300,000 troops as part of its response to an “era of strategic competition”.
The NATO reaction force currently numbers around 40,000 soldiers, who can deploy quickly when needed.
Coupled with other measures including the deployment of forces to defend specific allies, Stoltenberg said on Monday that the move to expand NATO forces is part of the “biggest overhaul of collective defence and deterrence since the Cold War”.
He made the remarks at a news conference ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday, when the 30 military allies in the bloc are expected to also agree on further support to Ukraine after its invasion by Russia.
Stoltenberg said he expects allies to make clear they consider Russia “as the most significant and direct threat to our security”.
Another central theme at the NATO summit will be the possibility for Finland and Sweden to join the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO member Turkey has so far blocked their applications, citing what it considers to be the two countries’ soft approach to organisations Turkey considers to be “terrorist”, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
Turkey is demanding that Sweden and Finland grant extradition requests for individuals who are wanted by Turkish authorities.
Ankara also wants assurances that arms restrictions imposed by the two countries over Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northern Syria will be removed.
Stoltenberg said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson have agreed to meet on the sidelines of the Madrid summit.
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