BRUSSELS—Long thought to be on its last legs, NATO is set to become a regional deterrent thanks to a proposed influx of U.S. spending and equipment, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter announced Tuesday.
Carter’s stance on a reinvigorated NATO comes ahead of scheduled NATO and counter-Islamic State meetings here in the coming days.
The first, on Wednesday, will assess the state of NATO and its new deterrent posture, while on the Thursday, Carter will discuss his plans to defeat the Islamic State with the 27 other countries currently participating in the coalition to defeat the terrorist group.
Though the aims of both NATO and the Counter-Islamic State coalition overlap in some key areas, they remain different. The Pentagon’s message, however, is the same for both: it wants more from its allies.
For NATO, Carter plans to present his recent budget requests as an indication for how serious the United States is taking the current events unfolding in Europe.
“Whether it be outright aggression or so called hybrid warfare…[NATO] will constitute in today’s terms [a] strong deterrent,” Cater told reporters during his flight to Belgium, reiterating how NATO’s “new playbook” remains different from how the alliance treated the Soviet Union during the Cold War. “The United States in today’s budget makes an important move itself, and I’ll be looking for others in NATO to echo.”
The $582.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2017 sets aside $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI, which is more than four times the amount allotted in last year’s budget. The influx in cash will upgrade existing equipment pre-positioned along Europe’s eastern flank and allow for the addition of more U.S. heavy equipment, special operations assets and facilities. Carter noted that these assets are key for how NATO will move from reassuring its allies to deterring future aggressors.
Though the European Reassurance Initiative is set to receive a welcome amount of funds for those anxiously waiting on Russia’s periphery, the fight against the Islamic State is allotted to receive almost twice that—roughly $7.5 billion. Following Tuesday’s budget request, Carter will reveal a final campaign plan that partially debuted in Paris last month and has since been revised and approved by President Barrack Obama.
According to Carter, the operational plan he is presenting on Thursday will focus, much as he has said before, on attacking the “metastasis in Iraq and Syria,” though it will only discuss potential plans to deal with the Islamic State’s burgeoning foothold in Libya. The plan focuses on attacking the Islamic State strongholds of Mosul and Iraq in an effort to “cleave the Islamic State in half.”
Carter has invited 21 observer countries that are not currently contributing to the military campaign against the Islamic State, in addition to the 27 countries that are participating in the coalition.
“They’re not now making major military contributions, but they’re invited because I’d like them to,” Carter said.
Carter hopes that countries currently participating will do more to “match their own resources” as he believes the United States has shown its willingness to contribute more to the fight.
“I hope we’ll get some word now…but also when they leave the meeting they have a clear operational picture and a clear picture of the operational resources that go with the operational plan and find a way to do more,” Carter added.
In recent weeks, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged additional forces for fighting the Islamic State, reportedly after Carter circulated a letter to key allies in the region requesting to commit more resources as the United States hopes to “accelerate” the campaign to defeat the extremist group. In coming days, Carter plans to meeting with Gulf State leaders to hopefully solidify their commitments.