As alliance military spending exceeds $1 trillion, NATO defence ministers reach out into space, the final frontier, boldly going where no alliance has gone before……

A review of the NATO Defence Ministers meeting, Brussels, 26-27 June 2019

By Dr. Ian Davis, NATO Watch

The NATO defence ministers met in Brussels for a two-day meeting to discuss three main issues:

  • progress in strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, which included a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group and discussions on (a) Russia’s alleged violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, (b) proposals for NATO’s first space policy, and (c) the security implications of new technologies;
  • ongoing efforts to achieve fairer burden sharing within the alliance; and
  • instability on NATO’s southern borders, including NATO’s missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its contribution to the anti-Islamic State coalition.

Key activities and decisions taken:

  • Russia’s ‘violation’ of the INF Treaty was discussed. While continuing to urge Russia to return to compliance, NATO is preparing a response should Russia fail to do so. Some options were outlined, but the exact nature of that response was not disclosed; deployment of new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe was ruled out, however.
  • A new overarching space policy was approved. Few details were provided and the document remains classified.
  • There appeared to be no discussion of NATO’s new Military Strategy (also classified) that was approved by NATO’s Chiefs of Defence in May (see NATO Watch Observatory No.50).
  • The US Defense Secretary briefed the meeting on the conflict with Iran. The Defence Ministers discussed the importance of keeping the strait of Hormuz open and the need to deescalate the situation, but made no commitment to act in the matter.
  • It was confirmed that by 2020, 30 combat ships, 30 land battalions and 30 air squadrons will be ready and available within 30 days under the Readiness Initiative (known as the ‘Four Thirties’). Around three-quarters of the forces required have already been generated.
  • Full support was given to US efforts to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan and financial support for the Afghan security forces was confirmed until the end of 2024.
  • After five consecutive years of real growth in military spending, European member states and Canada will, by the end of 2020, have added a cumulative total of well over one hundred billion dollars. Total NATO military spending will reach $1.04 trillion this year.
  • Seven NATO member states (Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain) and one partner nation (Finland) agreed to cooperate to acquire maritime munitions, including surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and gun shells.
  • Two ongoing multinational munition initiatives each incorporated two additional participants: Croatia and the UK (land munitions); and Italy and Slovakia (air-to-ground precision guided munitions).

Read the attached pdf briefing to find out more.