Julianne Smith

Julianne Smith

NATO Foreign Ministers are meeting in Brussels today to address President Putin’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Allies are stepping up their support for Ukraine’s right to defend itself, including with anti-tank weapons, air-defence systems and other equipment, as well as increased humanitarian assistance and financial aid.

The ministers will be joined by their counterparts from Ukraine, Finland, Sweden, Georgia, and the EU, as well as by NATO’s Asia-Pacific partners - Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

"We found it tremendously helpful to have Georgia and Ukraine with us at many of these Ministerials... We are able to share information with them; they give us first hand accounts and insights, their perspectives..." US ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said on Tuesday in response to TURAN's question during a virtual press briefing organized by the State Department's Brussels Media Hub.

In Ukraine's case, she said, "we hear directly from them in terms of specific needs - particularly air defense needs that they may have or something else that has shifted" she said.

The Ministers "will spend some time talking about other NATO partners'', she added.

"There are countries out there like Georgia - but there are others, you could mention Bosnia and Moldova, countries that already are our partners.. - may need additional support. Perhaps they wanna talk to NATO allies about strategic communications, or lessons learned on cyber - i mean, we have a tremendous amount of expertise... and there is no reason why we can't offer some of that expertise to our closest partners in this moment as they face this kind of collection of hiper tools that Russians like to use," she explained.

The US also would welcome Sweden and Finland into NATO if they requested membership - as they are showing signs of wanting to do after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,

In January, Moscow had already tried to get NATO to reverse its open-door policy, Smith reminded. “And the answer that came back in stereo surround-sound from all 30 of the allies was, ‘Absolutely not. NATO's door will remain open. Full Stop.’ That was non-negotiable.”

However she noted that it was up to Sweden and Finland to apply for membership and up to NATO as a whole to decide whether to accept them. 

“You’ve heard [Sweden and Finland] making statements recently that they’re looking at this more seriously than they have in the past. And we’ll wait to see what their final decision is"

From Washington's perspective, "we would welcome these two members. We find that they already bring tremendous value to the alliance. They have a very close relationship,” the Ambassador added.

Washington also believes that the future of American presence on the eastern flank of NATO may revolve around rotational forces in permanent bases, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Congress on Tuesday.

"Actual presence is always a good deterrent relative to a given threat," Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said before the House Armed Services Committee. 

The United States already employs rotational units in the Baltic Republics and Poland.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more have deployed to the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. At the latest NATO Summit in March, leaders agreed to study the alliance's troop posture in Europe. 

Congressmen asked Milley about the possibility of American troops based permanently in the front-line states with Russia.

"My advice would be to create permanent bases... but don't station permanently," he said. This gives the effect of permanence by cycling rotational forces through these permanent bases.  

By doing that, the military does not incur the costs of family moves, post exchanges, schools, housing and so forth, Milley said. 

"So, you cycle expeditionary forces through forward-deployed permanent bases," the chairman said. "And I believe that a lot of our European allies, … are very, very willing to establish permanent bases." 

NATO is going through a process right now to examine the security architecture in Europe and how it should change given Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said.

U.S. leaders, he said, expect to work with leaders from NATO allies on the troop posture picture.

"If NATO deems that it's appropriate to change its footprint, then certainly we will be a part of that," the secretary said. "Our goal is to make sure that we continue to reassure our allies and partners, especially those that are on the eastern flank, and especially our allies that are in the Baltic area or Baltic region." 

Austin believes the decision on this will be announced at the NATO's Madrid Summit this June. 

Alex Raufoglu

Washington D.C.

 

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