National Security

Italy, France Still No Shows As NATO Hits Major Roadblock In Plan to Deter Russian Aggression

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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NATO risks a 25 percent shortfall in its recently announced troop deployment to deter Russian aggression ahead of a major July 8 summit. NATO initially pledged to secure four battalions from four different countries, which would then be filled out to full strength by other member countries.

The United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom have each agreed to supply one battalion, but NATO cannot find a fourth member country willing to send a battalion.

The NATO deployment is meant to be more than a symbolic gesture in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia. NATO Secretary General Jan Stoltenberg called the decision “the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War.” NATO intends for the battalions to be strong enough to do enough damage to halt a Russian advance before a NATO rapid reaction team arrives to assist. The deployments will also allow NATO to position heavy weapons to assist the rapid reaction teams.

Larger NATO member countries Italy and France, whom many thought would step up and offer a battalion, have rejected the deployment. The tensions within the NATO alliance have recently become a major political issue in the U.S. and Europe.

Italy cited its existing participation in a NATO rapid reaction force and cuts in domestic defense spending as reasons why it cannot contribute a battalion. France, under the leadership of its socialist government, remains skeptical of multinational NATO deployments. France also cited its existing commitments in Africa and Syria. NATO officials reportedly only expect France to contribute one hundred and fifty troops to the deployment.

Some have speculated that the U.S. will provide the additional battalion. Washington’s NATO Ambassador Douglas Lute told the New York Times the US is “not thinking about doing two.” Ambassador Lute added “We’re planning to do one and get our allies to step up”.

Germany only agreed to the additional deployment in exchange for a renewed dialogue with Russia. This renewed dialogue likely included the first meeting between Russia and NATO since the beginning of Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO Secretary Stoltenberg told the New York Times he is confident a fourth country will be found before the major NATO summit in Warsaw on July 8th, only six weeks away. Failure to find a fourth country would significantly undermine NATO’s collective security guarantee to Baltic states who share a border with Russia.

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