NATO will equip itself with a response force of 300.000 men to deal with the Russian threat

Only a few years ago, under the battering of Donald Trump and RT Erdogan, several European chancelleries began to doubt the effectiveness of the Atlantic Alliance, to the point that the French President, in reference to the lack of reaction from the alliance in the face of Turkish provocations in the western Mediterranean, judged that it was in a state of "brain death", and that the Europeans, France and Germany in the lead, undertook to try to consolidate European response capacities in the face of emerging threats . Four years later, while Russia has reignited a security crisis in Europe on a scale comparable to that of the Cold War, NATO has once again become the pivot of all common defense policies and strategies of the allies on the old continent. and has regained, alongside the EU and the United States, its status as a major player in the coordinated Western response to Russian aggression, in a unity that surprised even the most Atlanticist. In this context, the NATO summit which will take place from 28 to 30 June in Madrid, will mark a profound upheaval within the Alliance, its Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, having announced that it would deal, among other things, with the constitution of a response force of 300.000 men to respond to the Russian threat.

Since 2004, NATO has had a response force of 40.000 men supplied with units on a rotational basis by its members, and designated NATO Response Force, or NRF. In 2014, on the occasion of the Cardiff summit which also marked the members' commitment to achieve a defense effort of 2% of GDP by 2025, the NRF set up a rapid reaction force, called the Very High Readiness Joint. Task Force, gathering at least 5000 men and likely to be mobilized in 48 to 72 hours time. However, as numerous exercises in recent years have shown, NATO is struggling to respond to the challenges posed by Russia, which is capable of mobilizing and deploying forces of 100.000 to 180.000 men within particularly short deadlines of 1 to 2 months, well below the 3 to 6 months required by European armies to mobilize and deploy significant forces in Eastern Europe, for example. It is very likely that the new response force of 300.000 men announced by Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the Madrid summit, aims precisely to respond to this mobilization capacity demonstrated by the Russian armies against Ukraine in December 2021 and January 2022.

During the Vostok 2018 exercise, the Russian armies announced that they had mobilized 300.000 men, the largest exercise carried out since the end of the Cold War.

Such an announcement will cause profound upheavals within NATO's European armies, but also for its allies across the Atlantic. It is therefore likely that, following the example of what was done during the Cold War, Washington will once again undertake to preposition heavy equipment in Europe, so as to only have to deploy, if necessary, the men necessary for their implementation by plane, within deadlines compatible with operational imperatives. On the European side, it will very probably be essential to initiate a change in the formats of the armies, in particular of the land forces, as well as to undertake permanent deployments in Eastern Europe, so as to have significant immediate response capabilities in order to to dissuade Moscow from any adventurism, in particular in the Baltic States, or in Scandinavia. Finally, it should be noted that the format of this force, 300.000 men, is equal to that mobilized by the Russian armies during the Vostok 2018 exercise, the most imposing post-Cold War exercise carried out by Moscow.

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