U.S. officials concerned that NATO forces in Europe are unprepared to respond to Russian encroachment are advocating a dramatic increase in the number of troops, aircrafts and ships available for rapid deployment.
As tensions between the west and Russia escalate to levels not seen since the Cold War, European allies are reportedly prepared to deploy only a few thousand troops immediately in the event of conflict.
U.S. officials plan to submit a proposal that would ensure 30,000 troops, as well as additional aircraft, and naval ships can reach a given conflict point within 30 days of a commander placing forces on alert, current and former allied officials told the Wall Street Journal.
The push for increased military preparedness comes days after the U.S. and 14 European allies expelled Russian diplomats in response to a nerve gas attack on British soil likely perpetrated by Russia against one of their former spies.
The Trump administration also announced a new round of Russian sanctions this month designed to punish the Kremlin for a series of cyber attacks and meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Russia has forcefully denied both charges.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has prioritized increasing NATO military readiness as President Donald Trump has publicly called on its European members to increase their contributions to the collective defense.
NATO officials have reportedly been receptive to calls for increased readiness and they hope to come to an agreement regarding troop levels before a summit in July.
The alliance increased its presence on the Russian border in Poland last year, committing 4,600 troops for rapid deployment in the event Russian forces attempt to encroach on NATO territory. But those forces are not equipped for a longterm conflict and would require rapid reinforcements
“Reinforcements are still the indispensable element,” Alexander Vershbow, a former NATO deputy secretary-general, told WSJ. “And it is clear that NATO’s capacity to reinforce is still far less than is required.”