Standing NATO force for Europe proposed

Britain will propose creating a NATO rapid deployment force to defend mainland Europe while alliance troops serve further afield, in an effort to persuade member states to do more in Afghanistan. Reuter is reporting.
Source: KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters)
Defence Secretary John Hutton will propose the 3,000-strong force on Thursday at a meeting of fellow NATO ministers in the Polish city of Krakow, his spokeswoman said.

Hutton told Thursday’s edition of the Financial Times that the force would reassure NATO’s East European members, in particular the Baltic states, which were alarmed by Russia’s incursion into Georgia last year.

"I hope it might make it easier for NATO to do more in Afghanistan, certain in the knowledge that there is a dedicated homeland security force that will have no other call on its priorities (other) than European homeland security," Hutton was quoted as telling the paper.

"Hopefully, that will make it easier for other member states to do more in Afghanistan."

After the Cold War ended, NATO moved away from a policy of maintaining large standing forces to defend alliance territory, a NATO official said.

Hutton’s spokeswoman said the proposed Allied Solidarity Force would consist of 1,500 troops ready for deployment and 1,500 in training.

"It goes back to the basics of what NATO is about. It’s as much to have a military capability as to have as strong demonstrable political will and political alliance," she said.

NATO’s European members will come under pressure from the United States in Krakow to boost commitments to the troubled international operations in Afghanistan after President Barack Obama announced plans to boost U.S. troop numbers by 17,000.

Hutton told the Financial Times the move would help break the deadlock within NATO over the creation of a 25,000-strong NATO Response Force, or NRF, that is supposed to be able to be deployed in a variety of theatres.

The force exists largely on paper at the moment as alliance members could not agree on what role it should play.

"It’s supposed to be 25,000 deployable troops, but neither the troops equipment, or personnel have been made available to it," a British defence official said. "Britain is keen to see an NRF that can be deployed as and when necessary."

(Editing by Jon Boyle)


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