NATO will establish a prototype of a new rapid response force next year as it strives to improve its ability to deter a Russian attack, the alliance said on Tuesday.
The “interim spearhead force” will be made up of German, Dutch and Norwegian troops and is expected to be about the size of a brigade, 3,000 to 4,000 troops.
The new force responds to a proposal approved in September at a NATO summit meeting in Wales to establish a “high readiness” unit to defend the alliance’s Central European members.
Because of formidable operational and financial challenges, a permanent quick reaction force will not be established until 2016, the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Tuesday during meetings here of the alliance’s foreign ministers. The interim force is intended as a temporary hedge against Russia’s more aggressive military posture.
“NATO hasn’t done this for two decades,” Douglas E. Lute, the United States ambassador to NATO, said on Monday. “What NATO faced in the last two decades was a different challenge. It faced a challenge on a very sort of deliberate, predictable calendar basis.”
“So you didn’t go to the Balkans on NATO rotation by surprise,” Mr. Lute added. “Nations could take their time preparing the troops, deploy them, then recover them and replace them.”
In contrast, the new interim spearhead force is supposed to be prepared to rush to the defense of the alliance’s Baltic and Central European members in a matter of days.
A senior NATO official, who declined to be identified because he was discussing internal planning, said that the interim force would be established by Jan. 1. It has not yet been decided whether the units that are to make up the force will be based in their home countries or kept at another location, the NATO official said.
But the readiness of the force would be raised so that an entire brigade of troops could be deployed within a few days. NATO officials, he said, are still discussing whether some lead elements of the brigade should be able to deploy more quickly.