Russia, Iraq and Afghanistan have been high on the agenda at NATO’s Military Committee session.
The 29 Allied Chiefs of Defence met in the new NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday to review and discuss key military issues ahead of the next month’s meeting of NATO Defence Ministers.
Russia has been a top concern for defence chiefs since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. However, tension has ramped up recently as Moscow was blamed for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Russian aircraft have increasingly tested NATO air defences as they fly dangerously close to NATO planes. Earlier this month, a high-speed Russian fighter jet had a near miss with a US surveillance plane over the Baltic.
In response to Russian aggression, the alliance has sent battle groups to reassure nervous countries which border Russia.
Now NATO is planning a much greater show of force on land, air and sea.
Trident Juncture 18 will take place this November in Norway with over 40,000 participants from more than 30 nations.
General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, said:
“This exercise is a prime example of NATO allies and partners working together in peacetime as well as in crisis.
“It will be one of NATO’s largest exercises in the recent years.”
NATO Chiefs have also been considering Afghanistan and is boosting its training mission there by sending an extra 3,000 troops to join the 13,000 already there.
However, overall NATO says violence is at its lowest level for five years as Afghan forces gradually weaken insurgents.
General Curtis Scaparrotti, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said:
“We’ve had a second year of putting pressure on the Taliban and enough pressure as we look to the future – what would I hope to see - is more of them coming to the table for reconciliation and we have to get to a negotiated point.”
On Iraq, NATO intends to set up a permanent training mission and military academies.
But with anti-western cleric Muqtada al-Sadr now in holding the balance of power in the country, it is unclear what kind of welcome NATO troops will receive.
General Petr Pavel, Chairman Nato Military Committee, said;
“Regarding the NATO training and capacity building mission in Iraq, the chiefs of defence noted the need for NATO to continue discussions with the new Iraqi government once it is formed.”