CARDIFF, WALES - NATO leaders on Friday will endorse a 12-point strategy to dust off their military alliance and be better able to fight the battles of the 21st century.
And NATO nations, including Canada, appear poised to dramatically boost defence spending to help pay for the NATO overhaul.
The final communiqué issued Friday at the NATO summit will see member nations promise to hike military spending to 2 per cent of their gross domestic product over the next decade, an official familiar with the communiqué confirmed to the Star.
For Canada, meeting that pledge would mean a big increase in military spending, which now stands at just over $18 billion a year, or about 1 per cent of GDP.
Driving the change to become more agile and flexible is Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which left NATO planners stunned by the way Moscow seized the territory without firing a shot.
Instead, Russia used tactics that included subversion and propaganda — so-called “hybrid” warfare — to successfully lay the groundwork for its takeover of Crimea, techniques that NATO is struggling to learn and combat.
“He used every non-lethal part of his playbook and he did with eye-watering success,” one NATO official said Thursday, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After more than a decade of fighting a counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, NATO is having to retool to grapple with new threats.
The alliance’s new readiness plan — to be discussed by leaders during their Friday session — is meant to change all that. It will put a new focus on the alliance’s ability to gather intelligence, conduct surveillance and wage cyber warfare.
According to the NATO official, it will add up to an extensive overhaul in how the military alliance prepares for war.
“This is probably the biggest change ever in our military planning,” he said.
At the heart of the plan is a proposal to create a rapid response force — between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers — that could be deployed to a hot spot on just a few days’ notice.
In future, another Crimea-style stealth campaign could prompt the deployment of the new response force to serve as a deterrent to a potential aggressor.
“If Putin makes a move on our allies, we have to be watching and listening carefully because it’s so under the radar,” the official told the Star.
It’s envisaged that the new force, brought together from across NATO, would train together frequently from bases in Eastern Europe, where they could deployed to counter future Russian moves.
Canada’s top general will meet with his NATO colleagues in several weeks to begin working out the details of the new force.
Gen. Tom Lawson, the chief of defence staff, will join top military staff from the 27 other NATO nations to begin fleshing out the alliance’s plan for a new fighting force.
NATO Secretary Gen. Anders Fogh Rasmussen has made it clear that he expects all alliance members to pony up resources for the new unit. Canada has said it’s open to requests.
But it won’t be until top military commanders meet in several weeks that work will begin on the details of how it will work and where the soldiers will be drawn from.
Following the discussion on the readiness plan Friday, NATO leaders will have what could be a difficult conversation on military spending as both London and Washington push their allies to reverse years of spending cuts to defence budgets.
In a joint article that appeared in the Times of London, British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama said extra investments are needed to help retool NATO.
Only four countries, including Britain and the U.S., meet NATO’s target of spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence. Canada spends just 1 per cent.
The two leaders said that “other states must urgently step up their efforts to meet this too.”