The U.S. will make its biggest military expansion in Europe since the Cold War, including its first permanent troop presence in Poland, as NATO prepares for two more members to join the alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The announcement, which follows a NATO pledge this week to increase its high-readiness forces sevenfold, comes despite Washington’s efforts to shift U.S. attention toward China and offers further evidence of how Russia’s war is upending international security.
“We’re stepping up. We’re proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been,” President Biden said Wednesday at the opening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit.
The shift to China was evident in the release of NATO’s updated “Strategic Concept,” a mission statement for the decade ahead. China wasn’t mentioned in the last version, from 2010, but its economic and military might have caused a global reordering.
The U.S. in particular has pressed allies into confronting Beijing over its economic practices and human rights, while there is growing concern over intentions toward Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific.
The document states that China threatens NATO’s “interests, security and values,” through cyber operations and its control over technology, critical infrastructure, strategic materials and supply chains. It also says that deepening ties between China and Russia “run counter to our values and interests.”
The U.S., in its plan announced Wednesday, will add to the 100,000 troops it now has in Europe and deploy more military equipment to NATO allies. The additions include rotational deployments to Romania and the Baltic region, and a permanent Army headquarters base and other units in Poland, the White House said. Until now, the U.S. and other allies have only rotated troops in and out of NATO countries once under Soviet domination, not permanently located them there.
The new plans also include sending additional Navy destroyers to Spain, a short-range air defense battery to Italy and two squadrons of cutting-edge F-35 jet fighters to the U.K.
Romania would get an additional brigade combat team, allowing its elements to deploy across the region and enhancing security across the eastern flank, according to administration officials. The Pentagon will increase rotational deployments of armored, air defense and special operations forces into the Baltic region, officials said.
The Pentagon will expand by more than 600 the number of military personnel in Germany, enhancing air defense and other support to NATO, according to a statement.
NATO officials have said since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 that the alliance must enhance its air defenses, among other capabilities.
“These forces—the first permanent U.S. forces on NATO’s Eastern Flank—will improve our command and control capabilities, interoperability with NATO, and management of prepositioned equipment,” the White House said.
In response to the U.S. moves, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow would take “compensatory measures.”
“I think those who propose such decisions are under the illusion that they will be able to intimidate Russia and somehow restrain it. They won’t succeed,” Mr. Ryabkov said Wednesday in comments carried by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who addressed the Madrid gathering Wednesday via video, said, “Russia must be isolated. It must not be present in the international bodies that it wants to destroy. Ukraine needs security guarantees, so a place for Ukraine in the common security space should be found.”
NATO members told Mr. Zelensky that “Ukraine can count on us for as long as it takes,” said Mr. Stoltenberg following the summit’s first meetings. “Allies are prepared for the long-haul.”
Mr. Zelensky has pleaded with Western allies for more aid as Russia’s assault continues and he has warned that the harsh Ukrainian winter would make it more difficult for his troops to defend their positions and maintain supply lines.
The U.S. has deployed an additional 20,000 troops to Europe in response to the crisis posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, putting the total number of troops in Europe at about 100,000. The announcements in Madrid Wednesday amount to an addition of about 1,500 new, permanent or semi-permanent forces, U.S. military officials said.
That includes about 280 military personnel to support the new permanent Army headquarters in Poland, another 625 troops for an air-defense artillery brigade headquarters, an air defense battalion and a combat sustainment support battalion headquarters in Germany, and about 65 personnel for a short-range air-defense battery in Italy.
The U.S. will work with the Spanish government to add two more destroyers to the port in Rota, totaling about 600 additional crew, officials said.
At the Group of Seven summit earlier this week in Germany, the Biden administration said it would also provide an advanced missile-defense system, additional artillery ammunition and radar systems to Ukraine.
The new security commitments come as NATO prepared to admit Finland and Sweden into the 30-member alliance. Mr. Biden appeared Wednesday morning with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who said the development illustrates that Russian President Vladimir Putin had failed in trying to close NATO’s doors.
“He is getting the opposite of what he wants,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “He wants less NATO. President Putin is getting more NATO.”
The deal came together Tuesday after Turkey said it was satisfied that its concerns have been allayed as to how Finland, and particularly Sweden, will handle alleged Kurdish terrorists. Turkey’s objections had been poised to cast a cloud over the NATO summit.
Mr. Biden called it a historic application for two countries that long prized neutrality. He said it would send an unmistakable message that “NATO is strong and united and the steps we’re taking during this summit are going to further augment our collective strength.”