Speaking in Muenster, Germany on Monday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the United States will contribute weapons, aircraft and forces - including commandos - for NATO’s rapid reaction force to help bolster European security against threats from the east - Russia - and the south - ISIS.
While not providing a large ground force, the United States would contribute intelligence and surveillance capabilities, special operations forces, logistics, transport aircraft and a range of weapons support, the Associated Press reports.
While these contributions could be drawn from Europe, a defence official told Reuters, the announcement could also mean a temporary increase in US forces in the continent in a crisis situation.
However, the US defence officials emphasised that the United States was primarily providing high-end support to enable European land forces that form the bulk of a newly-formed Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).
The NATO website describes VJTF as “a brigade that will be able to deploy within 48 hours and will eventually include 5,000 troops. It is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF), NATO’s high-readiness force comprising land, air, sea and Special Forces units capable of rapid deployment wherever needed.”
“We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy,” Carter said in Berlin earlier on Monday. “But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us all.”
Countries in the Baltic region and Scandinavia have been on standby for a possible Russian intervention in Europe after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year.
After Germany, Carter will travel to Estonia and Brussels. In Estonia, he is scheduled to meet with defence ministers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Baltic states that are seeking permanent NATO presence on their lands.
NATO defence ministers are meeting in Brussels on June 24 and 25, which Carter will attend as secretary of defense for the first time. The potential deployments to NATO countries close to Russia - Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary - are most likely on the agenda.
Carter has also mentioned that he wants to present a dual approach to allied nations which will bolster Europe’s ability to deflect Russia’s military aggression while cooperating with Kremlin to fight terrorism and to successfully conclude nuclear talks with Iran.