Are relations between Russia and the West finally starting to thaw? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Moscow on 12 May for more than eight hours of talks with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Nothing concrete was agreed, but this was the Secretary of State’s first visit to Russia in two years.
Ever since the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, tensions have been at their highest point since the end of the Cold War. Despite economic sanctions and falling oil prices, Russia has been investing heavily in modernising its armed forces, and used a recent WWII victory parade in Moscow to show off its new Armata tank design, due to enter service in 2020.
NATO countries have also been responding to the new security landscape, and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently announced that the NATO Response Force will more than double to up to 30,000 troops, with a spearhead force (the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force”) of 5,000 troops able to deploy globally within 72 hours.
Our partner think-tank, Friends of Europe, recently held a Policy Insight event on the NATO Response Force (NRF). In attendance were the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Douglas E. Lute, and the Dutch Ambassador to NATO, Marjanne De Kwaasteniet. Debating Europe caught up with both to ask them to respond to some questions from our readers.
Curious to know more about the enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF)? We’ve put together some facts and figures about the newly beefed-up NRF and its spearhead force in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
We had a comment from James who was concerned that tensions with Russia shouldn’t be allowed to simmer indefinitely. He argued that NATO should keep providing plenty of “off ramps” for Russia, and should push for a dialogue and keep the path open to a return to normalized relations.
The NATO Response Force is a sore-spot with the Kremlin, particularly as many Command & Control and Reception facilities for the spearhead rapid reaction force are being established in Eastern European countries neighbouring Russia. However, if we were to see a return to normalized relations between NATO Member States and Russia, could the Rapid Reaction Force potentially be scaled back?
We asked Douglas Lute, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, to respond:
To get a response from a European member of the Alliance, we also asked Marjanne De Kwaasteniet, the Dutch Ambassador to NATO. She echoed Ambassador Lute’s comments, leaving the door open for a potential de-escalation of the NATO force in Eastern Europe:
Should NATO’s Response Force be scaled back to appease Russia? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!