Posts Tagged ‘NATO’

“The target is Turkey and the Turkish nation” — President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Tells The Turkish People

November 20, 2017

Turkey, not just me, being targeted: Erdoğan

The recent scandal during a NATO drill in Norway was an attack targeting “Turkey and the Turkish nation,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Nov. 19, while acknowledging support from the opposition over the incident.

Turkey withdrew from the Trident Javelin exercise at The Joint Warfare Centre after a civilian Norwegian official depicted Erdoğan as an “enemy collaborator” during a bloc exercise. A portrait of the Republic of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was also shown on a “hostile leader list” during a computer-assisted exercise.

“They [NATO] carried out a scandal. They know that they cannot stop our country, which is why they are putting us on a target board. I hope that those who welcomed attacks against us before now understand the real face of the matter, as Atatürk was also included,” Erdoğan told a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial congress in the eastern province of Bayburt.

“The issue is not a personal or party issue. The target is Turkey and the Turkish nation,” he claimed, adding that the country was “ready for further major tests in the future.”

“Today there is a Turkey that cannot be compared with 15 years ago in every field – from the economy to the defense industry and from trade to diplomacy. There is now a Turkey that produces its own weapons and tanks. There is a country which is maintaining its fight against terror with its own unmanned aerial vehicles. There is a Turkey that is now preparing to produce its own indigenous car,” Erdoğan said.

His remarks came after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg once again apologized to him over the incident on the phone late on Nov. 18.

In the phone call, Stoltenberg informed Erdoğan that an inquiry had been initiated by the commanding officer and the contracted Norwegian technician involved in the incident was terminated immediately, according to a presidential source.

The NATO chief also stressed that Turkey is an important ally for NATO and that he would take all necessary precautions to avoid a repeat of such an incident, hoping the scandal would not adversely affect relations between NATO and Turkey, the source said.

Stoltenberg and Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen both issued swift apologies to Turkey over the incident on Nov. 17.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu also said his party cannot accept the “insult” against Turkey’s history and today’s Turkey.

“It is not a topic that can be avoided with an ordinary ‘we apologize’ thing,” Kılıçdaroğlu said at an event in Ankara on Nov. 18.

“Nobody can insult Turkey’s [current] executives or its history. We strongly condemn this,” he added.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on Nov. 18 also blasted the incident in Norway as “a disgrace that cannot be fixed or compensated.”

“Apology! What apology! Opening a debate or blaming the first president of the Republic of Turkey as well as the current president with psychological warfare tactics is evidence of open enmity,” Bahçeli said in his Twitter account.

“It is necessary for Turkey to question NATO. What does NATO want from Turkey? What is it waiting for? What does it want to achieve?” Bahçeli said.

Turkey has now reached a point of “all or nothing” with the alliance, he added.

“We were here back when there was no NATO. If we cannot stay in this structure it would not be the end of the world,” the MHP leader said.

Turkey has the second-largest army in the alliance and borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The Joint Warfare Centre is a multinational NATO unit based in Stavanger, 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of Oslo. It is currently led by Maj. Gen. Andrzej Reudowicz of Poland. According to its website, it has a staff of 250 made up of civilians from 11 NATO member states, including Turkey.

In March, the Norwegian government angered Ankara by granting political asylum to five Turkish officers based in Norway who had refused to return home after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.



EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget — Amid Erdogan Spat With NATO — Turkey’s commitment to democracy and human rights questioned

November 18, 2017


© AFP/File | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised by the EU for mass arrests in the country following the failed 2016 coup

BRUSSELS (AFP) – An EU 2018 budget deal was announced Saturday that cuts funds destined to Turkey, citing doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights.German Chancellor Angela Merkel had led calls for a cut to the funds, which are linked to Turkey’s stalled bid to join the bloc, following mass-scale arrests in the country since the failed July 2016 coup.

MEPs and member states have agreed to reduce the “pre-ascension funds” by 105 million euros ($124 million) and froze an additional 70 million euros of previously announced spending.

In a statement, lawmakers said “they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying”.

Turkey has dismissed more than 140,000 officials since the coup attempt, and arrested another 50,000, including opposition politicians, academics, journalists, activists and EU citizens.

The German government has warned its citizens against travelling to Turkey as they risk “arbitrary” arrest.

“We have sent a clear message that the money that the EU provides cannot come without strings attached,” said Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, the lead rapporteur for the budget.

Europe had pledged 4.45 billion euros in pre-accession spending for Turkey from 2014 to 2020, but only 360 million euros has been allocated so far.

Ankara’s application to join the EU is effectively frozen, as several European leaders have criticised the hardline response to the thwarted bid to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year.

Overall, the 2018 budget calls for 160 billion euros of committed spending for ongoing programmes and 145 billion in payments expected for the year, increases of 1.3 percent and 7.8 percent from 2017.

The agreement still needs to be formally adopted by the EU Council, representing member states, and the European Parliament.


Nato apologises to Turkey after Erdogan and Ataturk appear on ‘enemy chart’

Turkey withdraws 40 soldiers from Nato drill at joint warfare centre in Norway, in protest at incident

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in front of posters of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Nato has apologised for depicting them as ‘enemies’
 Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in front of posters of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Nato has apologised for depicting them as ‘enemies’ Photograph: AP

Nato’s secretary general has apologised to Turkey over military exercises in Norway during which Turkey’s founding leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were reportedly depicted as “enemies”.

Erdoğan said Turkey withdrew 40 soldiers participating in the drills at Nato’s joint warfare centre in Stavanger, Norway, in protest at the incident and criticised the alliance. “There can be no such unity, no such alliance,” he said in an address to his ruling party’s provincial leaders.

Details of the incident were sketchy. Erdoğan said Ataturk’s picture and his own name were featured on an “enemy chart” during the drills.

The individual who posted the material was described as a Norwegian civil contractor seconded by Norway, and not a Nato employee.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement saying: “I apologise for the offence caused.” He said the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” and did not reflect the views of the alliance.

He added that the individual was removed from the exercise and an investigation was underway. “It will be for the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action,” Stoltenberg added. “Turkey is a valued Nato ally, which makes important contributions to allied security.”

Stoltenberg apologised again at the Halifax international security forum in Canada. He said he had already spoken to Turkey’s defence chief and that it “won’t create any lasting problems, and I think it’s already behind us”.

Norway’s defence minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen, also expressed his concerns about the incident. “The message does not reflect Norway’s views or policies and I apologise for the content of the message,” Bakke-Jensen said.

The joint warfare centre is a multinational Nato unit based in Stavanger, 300km south-west of Oslo. According to its website, it has a staff of 250 made up of civilians from 11 Nato member states, including Turkey.

In March, the Norwegian government caused fury in Turkey by granting political asylum to five Turkish officers based in Norway who had refused to return home after the failed July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. The five officers said that they feared being arrested and tortured.

US and Poland strike $10.5 billion missile defense deal

November 18, 2017

The US has approved the $10.5 billion sale of a Patriot anti-missile system to NATO ally Poland. Eastern European NATO states have been ramping up their military capabilities in the face of perceived Russian aggression.

Polish President Andrzej Duda welcomes Donald Trump during state visit in July 2017 (Reuters/C. Barria)

In a move likely to irk Russia, the US and Poland agreed on Friday a major arms deal that could see the eastern European NATO member soon begin conducting air and missile defense operations.

As part of the $10.5 billion (€8.9 billion) sale, Poland is expected to receive 208 Patriot Advanced Capabilty-3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement missiles, 16 M903 launching stations, four AN/MPQ-65 radars, four control stations, spares, software and associated equipment.

Read moreNATO in a nutshell: What you need to know

Made by US defense contractor Raytheon, the missiles are reportedly designed to detect, track and engage unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise missiles and short-range or tactical ballistic missiles.

In a statement issued following the sale, the State Department said that: “A secure Europe capable of deterring air and missile threats and other forms of aggression promotes peace and stability within NATO and on the European continent.”

The transaction still requires congressional approval, since any sale of advanced military technology to another country requires special permission. Congress has 15 days to raise any objections to the deal, although this agreement is expected to pass swiftly, given the close military ties between the two countries.

During US President Donald Trump’s visit  to Warsaw in July, the US and Poland signed a memorandum of intent for weapons sales.

Poland is one of a handful of eastern European nations that has increasingly built up their military capacity in the face of potential Russian aggression, following the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Read more: Eastern Europe’s defense industry: from boom to bang?

Last year Russia deployed nuclear-capable Iskaner missiles on its Kaliningrad exclave bordering Lithuania and Poland. The move rattled NATO members, and prompted members, including the US and Germany, to begin carrying out military drills in the region.

Poland joins the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Greece as one of the few European countries in possession of a Patriot air-defense system. The US has also recently deployed a Patriot battery in Lithuania as part of the multinational NATO exercises in the Baltic region.

NATO chief apologises to Turkey over Norway ‘incident’

November 17, 2017


Image result for erdogan, photos

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan President of the Republic oF Turkey. Image Courtesy-Strathclyde-Telegraph

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The head of NATO apologised Friday over a training exercise in Norway after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew troops in protest at an incident he deemed offensive.

Erdogan said he had ordered the 40 troops to be removed from the exercise — a desktop drill not involving boots on the ground — after an image of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and his own name were included as “targets”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, apologised for upsetting Turkey, a key member of the alliance but one which has caused disquiet recently with its increasingly close relations with Russia.

“I apologise for the offense that has been caused. The incidents were the result of an individual’s actions and do not reflect the views of NATO,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“Turkey is a valued NATO ally, which makes important contributions to allied security.”

The Trident Javelin exercise in Stavanger, southern Norway, is described on a NATO website as a “computer assisted exercise without troops on the ground”, aimed at improving command structures for big operations.

The decision by Ankara, a NATO member since 1952, to buy the S-400 air defence system from Russia caused concern among its Western allies, but Turkey remains an important and active member of the alliance.

Stoltenberg was at pains to stress that the individual responsible for the incident was not one of NATO’s staff.

“He was a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee,” Stoltenberg said.

“It will be for the Norwegian authorities to decide on any disciplinary action. NATO has been in contact with the Norwegian authorities on this issue.”


Erdogan Pulls Turkey Troops From NATO Exercise — Says incident on Thursday deemed offensive to himself and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

November 17, 2017


ANKARA (TURKEY) (AFP) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Ankara had pulled out 40 Turkish troops from a NATO exercise in Norway, in a new outburst of tensions with its Western allies.

Erdogan said in a televised speech to ruling party members he had ordered the troops to be removed from the exercise after an incident on Thursday deemed offensive to himself and the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Turkey, which became a member of NATO in 1952, is a key member of the alliance but tensions have grown in recent months over its crackdown after the failed coup and Ankara’s increasingly close alliance with Russia.

Without going into detail over the incident, Erdogan said an image of Ataturk and his own name were used “and these were the targets”.

He said Turkey’s top general Hulusi Akar and EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik — who were on their way to a NATO conference in Halifax, Canada — had informed him of the incident.

“They said ‘this has happened… and we are going to take out our 40 soldiers’. And I said ‘absolutely, don’t hesitate, take them out right now'” Erdogan said.

“It’s not possible to have this kind of alliance,” he added, speaking in front of giant pictures of himself and Ataturk, who founded modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.

Turkish officials contacted by AFP said there were for now no further details on the incident. There was also no immediate comment from the Norwegian military.

Some Turkish media speculated that his comments indicated that images of Ataturk and Erdogan had been used for target practice in the exercise.

NATO’s website lists two military exercises that are currently ongoing in Norway. It was not clear what drill Erdogan was referring to and there was no immediate comment from NATO.

While Turkey is still playing an active role in the alliance, its Western allies have been particularly troubled by a deal for Ankara to purchase an S-400 air defence system from Russia.


 November 17 at 7:25 AM
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that Turkey has withdrawn 40 soldiers from a NATO military exercise in Norway, after the country’s founding leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Erdogan himself were allegedly depicted as “enemies.”

In an address to his ruling party’s provincial leaders on Friday, Erdogan said his and Ataturk’s names were placed on a “table” listing “enemies” during the NATO drills. He said he had personally instructed the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish troops “even if those names are removed” from the table.

The Turkish leader said of the NATO alliance: “There can be no such pact, no such alliance.”

NATO wasn’t immediately able to provide any information about the alleged incident.

Trump claims ‘America is back’ post-Asia trip

November 16, 2017

Image result for trump photos, november 15, 2017, white house

Updated 2:43 AM ET, Thu November 16, 2017

Washington (CNN)– President Donald Trump, fresh off a five-country swing through Asia, sought Wednesday to cast his first 10 months on the world stage as an unmitigated success, claiming a “great American comeback” that has restored the US’ standing in the world.

The speech, which came as Trump fumed at press coverage of his trip, framed his accomplishments in terms of correcting the “mistakes” of his predecessors and following through on his promises to voters. But he offered no new announcements on trade or North Korea, two of the top issues he focused on during his trip.
“I vowed that we would reaffirm old alliances and form new friendships in pursuit of shared goals. Above all I swore that in every decision, every action I would put the best interest of the American people first. Over the past 10 months traveling the globe and meeting with world leaders, that is exactly what I have done,” Trump said from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Trump on North Korea: What he said in Asia 01:39
Trump pointed to his efforts during his first foreign trip to rally Muslim leaders around the fight against radical Islamist terrorism and his urging that NATO allies boost their financial commitments to the alliance. And he highlighted his efforts on this most recent trip to bring back “free and reciprocal trade” and unite the world against the North Korean threat.
“My fellow citizens, America is back, and the future has never looked brighter,” he concluded.
But much of his speech failed to counter the core of the criticism he has faced in the wake of his 12-day trip to Asia: that he didn’t deliver on his rhetoric.
Beyond fresh Japanese sanctions against North Korea and a verbal commitment from China to increase pressure on North Korea, Trump made no immediate, visible progress to stop North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Trump's sip of water goes viral

 Image result for trump photos, november 15, 2017, white house
Trump’s sip of water goes viral 01:32
Trump on Wednesday touted his insistence to regional partners on “free and reciprocal” trade, but he emerged with no written commitments from the region to rebalance trade with the US or change trade practices that have disadvantaged the US.
The President did appear to try to clean up remarks in Beijing when he said he did not “blame” China for its unfair trade practices and gave the country “credit” for taking advantage of the US.
Trump said Wednesday that he emphasized to Chinese President Xi Jinping in “a very candid conversation” that US-Chinese trade must be “conducted on a truly fair and equitable basis.”
“The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over,” Trump promised, though he announced no changes to the terms of the relationship.
Trump returned Tuesday night from his tour of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, where he focused on trade and North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Trump was able to help secure the release of three UCLA basketball players, appealing directly to Xi to look into the matter.
But Trump on Wednesday morning was focused on the criticism he has faced from some over his warm embrace of Xi, whom Trump praised in Beijing and absolved of any wrongdoing for unfair trading practices that Trump has said have hurt the US.
“The failing @nytimes hates the fact that I have developed a great relationship with World leaders like Xi Jinping, President of China,” Trump tweeted. “They should realize that these relationships are a good thing, not a bad thing. The U.S. is being respected again. Watch Trade!”

Donald Trump hails Asia trip as ‘tremendous success’ and declares: ‘America is back’

  • President delivers lengthy speech and claims success in North Korea dispute
  • Trump ignores questions about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore
The bulk of the president’s statement on foreign policy was clearly aimed at his supporters, assuring them he was keeping his election promises on fighting for American jobs.
 The bulk of the president’s statement on foreign policy was clearly aimed at his supporters, assuring them he was keeping his election promises on fighting for American jobs. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images 

Donald Trump has declared his 12-day Asia tour as a “tremendous success”, claiming that “America is back” as a global leader.

The US president did not take questions from reporters, instead delivering an extended account of his five-nation trip, in which he claimed to have unified the world against the North Korean nuclear weapons programme, paved the way for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and insisted on “free and reciprocal” trade relations with the Pacific Rim.

“The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over,” Trump declared in the Diplomatic Room at the White House.

On North Korea, Trump claimed to have had a productive meeting with the Chinese president Xi Jinping, but restated the US rejection of the diplomatic option that Beijing has been promoting – a “freeze-for-freeze” deal under which Pyongyang would pause its nuclear and missile development and the US would rein in military exercises with its regional allies.

Trump did not repeat his prior threats of military action against Kim Jong-un’s regime, simply noting the oft-repeated formula that “all options remain on the table”.

The president also claimed to have won agreement from China and other countries in the region to exert “maximum pressure” on North Korea, but Chinese officials have stressed that Beijing will do nothing to trigger a collapse of the Pyongyang regime.

Perhaps as notable as what Trump said in the 24 minutes he spent behind the podium was what he did not say. He made no mention of the fate of embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and ignored reporters’ shouted queries of whether Moore should quit the race. Trump left the room without taking any questions.

Republican leaders, who have called on Moore to step aside, have been eager for Trump to weigh in on allegations Moore sexually assaulted and preyed upon teenage girls. The controversy represents a crisis for the Republican party, and jeopardizes its precarious 52-48 majority in the Senate.

Trump declined to weigh in on the allegations against Moore during his trip to Asia, telling reporters he was focused on his visit. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last week Trump believes Moore will “do the right thing and step aside” if the claims are true, but cautioned against a rush to judgment.

Trump takes an awkward sip of water during his speech.
 Trump takes an awkward sip of water during his speech. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Since those comments, more women have come forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct, while reports have also surfaced that the former judge was banned from a shopping mall because predatory behavior toward teenage girls.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, became the first White House official to condemn Moore on Wednesday, telling the Associated Press: “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

“I’ve yet to see a valid explanation [from Moore] and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts,” Ivanka, a senior adviser, said.

Read the rest:

Dozens of Afghan security forces killed in Taliban raids

November 14, 2017


© AFP | Afghan security forces have faced soaring casualties in their attempts to hold back the insurgents since NATO combat forces pulled out of the country at the end of 2014

KABUL (AFP) – Dozens of Afghan police and soldiers have been killed in a wave of Taliban attacks on checkpoints in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday, as insurgents step up assaults on the beleaguered security forces.

The raids in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah on Monday night came hours after a suicide attacker rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a US military convoy, wounding four soldiers.

The Taliban issued statements on their social media accounts claiming the attacks.

“I can confirm that last night the Taliban launched a wave of attacks on police checkpoints in Maiwand and Zhari districts and we lost 22 brave policemen,” Kandahar governor spokesman Qudrat Khushbakht told AFP.

He added that 45 militants were killed during the fighting that lasted around six hours.

In one of the attacks militants used an explosives-packed police pickup to ambush a checkpoint, Kandahar police spokesman Matiullah Helal told AFP.

At least 15 policemen were wounded in the coordinated assaults.

The attack on the US military convoy in Kandahar added to the casualty toll.

“There were a total of four US service members injured and all are in stable condition in US medical treatment facilities,” a spokesman for NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said, adding there were no fatalities.

Farah governor spokesman Naser Mehri told AFP nine Afghan National Army soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in the province bordering Iran that also claimed the lives of at least three civilians.

“There are signs the Taliban may have used night vision technology to approach and surprise our forces, though they were spotted before reaching the posts and suffered casualties,” Mehri said.

The Taliban have intensified attacks on security installations across the country in recent weeks in a show of strength as the United States deploys more troops to train and assist Afghan forces.

Analysts said the Taliban’s almost daily attacks are intended to show their ability to strike even heavily defended targets with the aim of further demoralising Afghan forces already beset by huge casualties and desertions.

The Taliban often use bomb-laden armoured Humvees and police vehicles stolen from Afghan security forces to blast their way into security compounds.

The tactic was used multiple times last month with devastating effect: hundreds were killed and wounded over a bloody few days that left military bases and police headquarters destroyed or severely damaged.

Afghan security forces have faced soaring casualties in their attempts to hold back the insurgents since NATO combat forces pulled out of the country at the end of 2014.

Casualties leapt by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to US watchdog SIGAR.

The insurgents have carried out more complex attacks against security forces in 2017, with SIGAR describing troop casualties in the early part of the year as “shockingly high”.

In August, Trump announced that American forces would stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, increasing attacks on militants and deploying more troops.


NATO ill-equipped to defend members, Dutch body warns

November 10, 2017


© AFP/File / by Jo Biddle | German soldiers and members of the NATO multinational battle group are pictured during a visit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Rukla, Lithuania, on August 25, 2017

THE HAGUE (AFP) – NATO is poorly equipped to defend members against aggression amid uncertainty over its unity under US President Donald Trump, which could allow Russia to exploit vulnerabilities, a Dutch advisory body warned Friday.

“It is becoming doubtful whether NATO will act responsibly and unanimously when it comes to it. There is internal division in an increasing number of areas,” said Joris Voorhoeve, chairman of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV).

“Uncertainty about the political leadership of the United States under President Trump is accompanied by concerns about the alliance’s unity,” he added.

The warning comes in a report issued Friday by the body which advises the Dutch foreign ministry and the government on policy.

“NATO is insufficiently equipped for its core task: protecting members against aggression via a credible deterrent and collective defence,” the AIV said in a statement.

The report calls on the 29-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), set up in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II, to strengthen internal cohesion and work to improve transatlantic relations as “the United States remains indispensable for Europe’s security”.

From the founding of the alliance the United States has been its “political and military backbone,” but since Trump took office in January there was been “a lack of leadership” by the Americans.

Europe’s safety is under threat from “destabilising actions by Russia” and from the current instability in the Middle East, it concludes.

Regions such as the Baltics are currently not well protected, and Russia could seek to exploit such vulnerabilities, the report, entitled “The future of NATO and the security of Europe”, warned.

It recommends that military units on the alliance’s eastern flank in countries such as Lithuania and Poland “should be significantly strengthened” and NATO should consider deploying some kind of rotating brigade.

It also calls for the lifting of bureaucratic obstacles to allow military units and equipment to move more rapidly across borders if needed, by establishing what it called a “military Schengen” — a reference to the EU’s 26-nation borderless system.

Concerns have grown about the threat to the alliance’s eastern region since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Nato is currently upgrading capabilities to combat a resurgent Russia, as part of the alliance’s biggest shakeup since the Cold War, with defence ministers on Wednesday backing the creation of two new command centres to help protect Europe.

Member states also agreed at a meeting in Brussels to increase the use of cyber weaponry and tactics during military operations.

by Jo Biddle

NATO to beef up in face of ‘assertive’ Russia

November 9, 2017

NATO plans to update its command structure for the first time since the end of the Cold War to ease movement of troops across the Atlantic and in Europe. It said the step was in response to Russian military moves.

A Eurofighter in a hanger in Estonia (picture alliance/dpa/Luftwaffe/VAPB 2015 PAO)

The decision “reflects NATO’s commitment to adapting its capabilities to emerging challenges,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said as NATO defense ministers started a two-day meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

“A key component of our adaptation is a robust and agile command structure,” Stoltenberg said. “We will continue doing whatever is necessary to keep our territory secure and our citizens safe.”

One new command to be created will focus on protecting sea lines across the Atlantic, while another will upgrade movement of forces and equipment within Europe.

Infografik NATO Expansion Europa ENG

The move is also in part reportedly aimed at pushing European governments to upgrade civilian infrastructure to enable the transportation of heavy equipment.

“In many parts of Europe, we don’t have the standards, we don’t have the strength of the bridges or the roads or the different types of infrastructure which can carry the heavy equipment we need to move,” Stoltenberg said.

US President Donald Trump has criticized fellow NATO members for not paying what he says is their fair share of the alliance’s budget, a position that has alienated some in Europe and strengthened calls for an EU defense force.

Cyber defense plans

NATO members also agreed to increase the use of cyber weaponry and tactics during military operations. The creation of a new NATO cyber-operations hub comes as the alliance faces hundreds of attacks on its networks every month and fears grow over the Kremlin’s electronic tactics.

“We are now integrating cyber effects into NATO missions and operations to respond to a changed and new security environment where cyber is part of the threat picture we have to respond to,” Stoltenberg said.

For threat read Russia

Stoltenberg said NATO defense and deterrence efforts were “not directed against any specific nation” and that there was “no imminent threat against any NATO ally,” but noted that NATO has seen “a much more assertive Russia” recently, including Russia’s use of military force in Ukraine.

“NATO has to be able to respond to that,” he said. The changes to the command structure also include recognizing cyber threats and integrating national cyber defense capabilities into NATO planning and operations at all levels.

NATO to agree to send more troops to Afghanistan

November 7, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during an interview in Kabul, Afghanistan September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO allies are set to agree on Thursday to increase by some 3,000 personnel the troop levels for the alliance’s Afghanistan training mission, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

About half the additional troops will come from the United States and the other half from non-U.S. NATO allies and partner countries, Stoltenberg said.

“We have decided to increase the number of troops … to help the Afghans break the stalemate,” Stoltenberg told a news conference on Tuesday before a meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers later this week.

Stoltenberg stressed the soldiers would not have combat roles but would be part of NATO’s train, advise and assist mission called Resolute Support.

U.S. Army General John Nicholson, the commander of the Resolute Support mission and of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, called for more troops in February, saying that a few thousand more troops would make a difference in weakening the Taliban and other Islamist militants.

The NATO contribution would take Resolute Support, which is building up Afghanistan’s army and air force, to around 16,000 troops, up from around 13,000 today, Stoltenberg said.

Under a new strategy announced by U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in September that more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops will be deployed to Afghanistan.

While NATO officials declined to discuss troop numbers in detail, the expected announcement on Thursday by NATO defense ministers is likely to mean the U.S. troops will be split between the training mission and the U.S.-led counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by Gabriela Baczynska, Larry King)