NATO defense ministers agree to boost defense amid U.S.-EU differences

Li Jiayao

BRUSSELS, June 7 (Xinhua) -- NATO defense ministers on Thursday took decisions to boost the command structure and readiness of forces amid transatlantic tensions.

Speaking at a press conference following the ministerial meeting, Stoltenberg announced that ministers agreed to strengthen the Alliance's command structure to ensure rapid reinforcement across the Atlantic and Europe.

Ministers decided to add more than 1,200 personnel to the command structure.

The Alliance will establish a new joint force command for the Atlantic at Norfolk in the United States and a new enabling command at Ulm, Germany.

"These headquarters will be essential for Alliance reinforcements," Stoltenberg said.

NATO's command structure was reduced to fewer than 7,000 staff in seven commands after the end of the Cold War.

Ministers also endorsed a new readiness initiative, called "Four Thirties", that means NATO will have 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels, ready within 30 days or less.

"This is not about new forces. But about increasing the readiness of the forces our nations already have," the NATO chief added.

NATO's meeting has been overshadowed by disputes between the United States and Europe regarding trade issues, the Iran nuclear deal, and climate change treaty.

Asked by reporters whether U.S.-EU differences affect cooperation within NATO ahead of the meeting, Stoltenberg admitted that "there are now serious disagreements between NATO allies."

"It's nothing new," he said, stressed that Allies have been able to unite around NATO's core task.

"As long as they're not solved, I have to be focused on how to reduce the negative consequences for NATO," Stoltenberg told reporters.

Ministers meet Thursday and Friday to make preparations for the upcoming Summit in July. "Burden sharing will be a key theme of our summit next month. And I expect all Allies to continue their efforts," the NATO chief said.



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