Christopher Hope, Tom Parfitt — Telegraph.co.uk August 2, 2014
Nato must show Russia that it “means business” by carrying out more military exercises and deploying more weapons to protect Europe’s eastern borders, David Cameron has said.
In a letter to Nato leaders ahead of a summit next month, the Prime Minister said the alliance had “to make clear to Russia that neither Nato nor its members will be intimidated”.
He also strongly hinted that he wants defence spending to start to increase now that Western democracies’ economies are starting to recover.
Tension between Russia and the West mounted on Friday with Vladimir Putin telling Barack Obama that sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis were counterproductive and the “current situation” was not in the interests of either country.
Mr Cameron said that Nato member states had to “strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those Allies who fear for their own country’s security and to deter any Russian aggression”.
He said that “Russia has ripped up the rule book with its illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive de-stabilisation of Ukraine”.
The Prime Minister said that he recognised existing treaties with Russia meant that Nato was not allowed to station a standing army in eastern Europe.
Next month’s summit in Newport, Wales, should look to step up Nato activities and should agree “a new exercise schedule adapted to the new security environment”.
The alliance should also look to move more military hardware into the region and consider how to strengthen the reaction times of its response force, Mr Cameron said.
Nato’s headquarters in Szczecin, Poland — which was established only in 1999 — is likely to be expanded to cope with the new threat from the east.
Mr Cameron, who is visiting the headquarters early next week, said: “This should be part of a broader action plan that enables us to respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including when we have little warning.”
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continued destabilisation of eastern Ukraine meant that Nato had to “review our long term relationship with Russia”.
He said: “While Nato has only ever sought to be a partner to Russia, not a threat, it is clear that Russia views Nato as an adversary.
“We must accept that the cooperation of recent years is not currently possible because of Russia’s own illegal actions in Nato’s neighbourhood and revisit the principles that guide our relationship with Russia.”
Mr Cameron also said he wanted Nato to learn from the West’s experience in Afghanistan and build “new defence capacity” in Georgia, parts of which are still occupied by Russian troops.
Last month, a former Nato deputy supreme commander warned that the alliance would be unable to respond if Mr Putin ordered a “sudden attack”.
Gen Sir Richard Shirreff said the only way to “absolutely guarantee” that countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are protected from Russia was to “have troops in place”.
He said: “There is a Russian aviation base within 45 minutes flying time of Riga. Unless Nato has stationed forces within the Baltics, I think it’s highly unlikely that Nato could respond to a sudden attack.”
Mr Cameron will also use next month’s summit to press other countries in the alliance to start to increase defence spending to cope with “an unstable world of failed states, regional conflicts, terrorism and cyber-attacks”.
He said: “We must ensure that Nato has the capabilities it needs to respond to changing threats. That requires investment. The UK is already one of four members of the alliance to meet the target of spending 2 per cent of our GDP on defence and I would urge other allies to make the strongest possible commitment to increase their defence spending, and to devote at least one fifth of it to equipment and research. As our economies start to recover, reversing the decline in defence spending and investing in our defence capabilities would strengthen alliance cohesion and signal that Nato means business.”