US land and air support for new Nato force

US Defence Secretary stresses commitment to defence of Europe

MUENSTER (Germany) - The US will be contributing special operations forces, intelligence and other high-end military assets to a new Nato rapid response force that aims in part to deter any future actions by Russia.

United States Defence Secretary Ashton Carter made the announcement on Monday during a trip to Germany, where he delivered an address accusing Moscow of trying to recreate a Soviet-era sphere of influence.

"We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy," Mr Carter said in Berlin.

"But make no mistake. We will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us all."

Russia's intervention over Ukraine has put Nato allies in eastern Europe on edge and triggered a series of military moves by the Nato alliance, including an acceleration of exercises and the creation of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

Moscow denies providing troops or arms to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. But neighbouring Nato countries, especially the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, fear Russia could foment trouble in their territories.

Mr Carter, who met European members of the VJTF in Muenster before flying to Estonia, said he was preparing to discuss planned US contributions to the force with Nato defence chiefs later this week in Brussels.

The US support would include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets - which can include drones or manned aircraft - as well as special operations forces, logistical expertise and high-end US military assets.

Mr Carter also said it would include airlift and precision joint-fire capabilities, which could involve land-based artillery and air support, among other things.

"We're making this commitment to the VJTF because the US is deeply committed to the collective defence of Europe," Mr Carter said, speaking alongside his Dutch, German and Norwegian counterparts.

Although many of the contributions announced on Monday could be drawn from within Europe, a defence official said the announcement could mean a temporary increase in US forces in Europe in a crisis situation.

Still, American defence officials said the US was mainly providing high-end support to European land forces that form the bulk of the VJTF.

Moscow has decried the new steps by Nato and has threatened to strengthen its own forces and add more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year.

Meanwhile, despite the tensions with Russia, Nato countries' military spending is set to fall again this year in real terms, Nato figures released on Monday showed.

Spending is set to drop by 1.5 per cent this year after a 3.9 per cent decline last year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'US land and air support for new Nato force'. Print Edition | Subscribe