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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 29, 2014
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NATO to Set Up New Spearhead’ Force
September 29, 2014   
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At a September summit overshadowed by the Ukraine conflict, NATO leaders decided to set up a rapid reaction “spearhead” force that could be sent to a hot spot in as little as two days.

The Sept. 4-5 meeting in Newport, south Wales, was seen by many observers as the most important North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit since the end of the Cold War. The conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country was one of the summit’s main topics and the special guest of the event was Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He took the opportunity to thank NATO leaders for their “unprecedented support.”

“The security and stability in the region has been brutally undermined by Russian aggression,” Poroshenko said in Newport, adding that Ukraine aimed to strengthen its military cooperation with NATO, Ukraine’s “strategic partner,” as he put it.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the summit that while Russia talked about peace in Ukraine, it was doing nothing to make peace possible. “Russia must... withdraw its thousands of troops from Ukraine and the border regions, and stop supporting the separatists in Ukraine,” Rasmussen added, saying that Russia should also reverse the annexation of Crimea. “This is the first time since the end of World War II that one European country has tried to grab another’s territory by force,” Rasmussen said.

Despite Kiev’s requests, NATO leaders did not agree to supply military equipment to the Ukrainian army. Most politicians at Newport agreed that by doing so, NATO would be intervening in a conflict that they said should be resolved through peaceful, diplomatic measures. Rasmussen said that while every NATO member was entitled to sell arms to the Ukrainian authorities, NATO would neither organize nor facilitate such transactions until the armed conflict in Ukraine ends. Instead, NATO leaders offered around 15 million euros in help—an amount that commentators said was little more than symbolic—to improve Ukrainian military capabilities in logistics, command and control and cyber defense.

The crisis in Ukraine has reopened a debate on bolstering the defense capacity of NATO’s so-called eastern flank, that is, the four easternmost states in the EU—Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. NATO leaders decided to establish a “spearhead” rapid reaction force, a 4,000-strong group that could be sent to a hot spot should the territory of any member of the alliance come under threat. The new group will be spun off from the NATO Response Force and is to be ready for deployment to any trouble spot in the world within two to five days. According to British Prime Minister David Cameron, the command center of the new force should be based in Poland. For the time being, the most likely location is the northwestern city of Szczecin, where NATO’s Multinational Corps Northeast comprising troops from Poland, Denmark and Germany has its headquarters.

At a joint press conference with Rasmussen in Newport, Polish President Bronisław Komorowski said he wanted to see a continuous NATO military presence in Poland, adding that this was crucial to ensure security in Central Europe. Komorowski also invited NATO leaders to Warsaw for the alliance’s next summit in 2016, adding that the Polish capital had symbolic significance because it was where the Warsaw Pact was signed during the Cold War.
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