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NATO Preparedness: A Strategic Shift in Defense Readiness



Swedish marines prepare fast assault crafts for small boat operations in the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall during Steadfast

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is steadfast in its mission to deter adversaries from attacking and stands ready to defend every inch of alliance territory, affirmed Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, supreme allied commander, Europe, and commander of U.S. European Command. Speaking at the NATO summit’s public forum at the Washington Convention Center, Cavoli highlighted the alliance’s significant strides in fortifying its defense strategies.

Strategic Concept for Deterrence and Defense

In recent years, NATO has developed and implemented strategic concepts for the deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area. These initiatives, which emerged from NATO’s summit last year, have been translated into detailed operational plans. “In the last couple of years, what we’ve done is turn those into concrete plans — traditional, classical, operational plans — that describe how we’re going to defend specific areas of the alliance and what we’re going to use to do it and what the sequence of events is,” Cavoli said. This represents a monumental shift from the post-Cold War era, where the alliance primarily focused on out-of-area operations and crisis management, typically involving smaller-scale, predictable operations.

Army Green Berets provide security with Bulgarian and Romanian special operations forces soldiers during

Response to Russian Aggression

The invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2022 necessitated a reevaluation and overhaul of NATO’s defense strategies. The new defense plans now guide leaders in effectively resourcing defense capabilities. This has led to a significant transformation within the alliance. Instead of maintaining a cyclical readiness model for a few brigades, NATO now boasts 300,000 service members at heightened levels of readiness. This integration of national defense plans with NATO’s strategies has enabled a forward-postured defense stance.

Enhanced Readiness and Reinforcement

The number of NATO battle groups in Eastern Europe has doubled from four to eight since the onset of the Ukraine conflict, with these groups serving as the forefront of NATO’s defense. If necessary, additional troops and military capabilities are ready to reinforce these units. “It’s a very effective method, [and] we have the right number of troops for right now,” Cavoli noted.

NATO has conducted extensive readiness checks and large-scale exercises to reinforce these defense strategies. Earlier this year, Exercise Steadfast Defender involved over 90,000 service members, helping to identify and address specific weaknesses, particularly in enablement and logistics.

Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, supreme allied commander Europe, speaks at the D-Day ceremony honoring World War II hero Army

Continued Commitment to Defense

Gen. Cavoli emphasized that, while NATO’s capital platforms and large ground units are largely where they need to be, there are areas requiring improvement. The alliance is actively working through the NATO defense planning process to address these gaps and ensure robust defense capabilities.

NATO’s strategic shift underscores its unwavering commitment to maintaining security and stability across the Euro-Atlantic region. The integration of national and alliance defense plans, coupled with increased readiness and extensive training exercises, fortifies NATO’s preparedness to defend its member nations against any threat.

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