In the „NATO Social Update Briefing” of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association of Hungary, we bring you the contemporary news of the Alliance every month.
On 2 February 2021, Lt. Gen. Hans-Werner Wiermann, Director of NATO’s International Staff, held a virtual winter meeting with the Alliance’s national reserve forces.
The lieutenant general began his speech with the role of reserve forces in the world epidemic, as most NATO member states use their reserves to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, performing tasks such as medical care, logistics and construction. He acknowledged the potential of reserve forces and their growing role within our alliance. He went on to argue that reserve forces could also be effectively involved in cyber defence activities, as this poses a serious challenge to NATO and seeks to encourage member states to use their reserve strengths in growing cyber defence missions and to set up special units for them.
Finally, he spoke about the area of the responsibilities (AOR) of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), which includes the ability to move widely and rapidly between troops and equipment in response to various crises. “NATO nations have taken a wide range of measures, including legislative measures and diplomatic licenses, to allow rapid border crossings on land, in the air and at sea, with effective control, command and communication, transport capacity and infrastructure, as a powerful tool of deterrence.” said the Major General.
On February 1st, Montenegro received 20 sets of ventilator equipment through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). This equipment will sustain previously donated ventilators and will be distributed to local hospitals. Furthermore, additional medical equipment will be delivered to Montenegro in the coming weeks.
This support is part of the NATO COVID-19 assistance packages for NATO Allies and partners. Eighteen allies had made financial or material donations to the Pandemic Response Trust Fund. Till the end of January, 10 assistance packages have been approved for four Allies (Albania, Czech Republic, Montenegro and North Macedonia) and for five partners (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Moldova, Tunisia and Ukraine).
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and Slovakia decided to support North Macedonia’s urgent requests. On the 8th February 2021, four pulmonary ventilators were delivered to Skopje, in the presence of North Macedonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bujar Osmani, and Minister of Health Venko Filipche, and more medical equipment will be delivered in the future.
The transportation of the medical equipment was funded by Slovakia as part of the NATO Pandemic Response Trust Fund. The fund was created to maintain medical equipment and supplies in order to provide immediate support to Allies and partners in need.
NATO, women and human security
NATO’s Science and Technology Organisation (STO) recently completed a major study on the integration of women into ground combat units. The study found that many NATO and partner countries are integrating women into ground close combat units and the roles open to women are increasing. Gender integration influences combat effectiveness. It is therefore important, the study notes, to identify best practices, collect evidence and collate lessons learned to support the participation of women in combat roles.
The study, conducted by scientists from NATO and partner countries, identified:
- the influence of social, cultural, and psychological factors of gender integration in ground close combat units and their impact on combat effectiveness;
- effective processes and strategies for the integration of women;
- appropriate methodologies for monitoring, measurement and assessment of integration.
NATO recognises the vital roles women play in peace and security, and the importance of incorporating gender perspectives in all that the Alliance does.
On 25 February 2021, at a high-level online conference, NATO discussed how to enhance its human security approach. The Allience’s five main lines of effort under human security are: the protection of civilians; children and armed conflict; countering trafficking in human beings; preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence; and cultural property protection.
Allies had agreed to step up NATO’s role in human security, in 2019, in London. This year new achievements are expected with the development of a NATO policy on preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence and the update of NATO’s policy on countering trafficking in human beings. NATO’s 2030 initiative and NATO’s Women, Peace and Security agenda will also help to address the human perspective of security.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, to discuss the ties between Europe and North America and the renewal and revitalisation of the transatlantic bond. Mr. Stoltenberg applauded the Belgian armed forces for supporting civilian efforts during the pandemic, stating thatarmed forces have been essential to the civilian response to COVID-19. He also added that this proves once again the importance of investing in defence in order to keep our militaries strong.
The Secretary General recalled Belgium’s important contributions to NATO’s shared security, including by contributing to the Baltic Air Policing Mission, the multinational battlegroups in the Baltic Sea region, and the mission in Afghanistan. They discussed NATO’s cooperation with the European Union, stating that in the last few years they managed to lift the cooperation to unprecedented levels. The Secretary General stressed the importance of arms control, and welcomed the extension of the New START treaty, stating that it should not be the end of the process, rather the beginning of an effort to strengthen international arms control and to include more weapons systems and more countries, like China.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to NATO Headquarters on 9 February 2021.
The Secretary General thanked Ukraine for its important contributions to NATO missions and operations and stressed that the country’s status as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner will deepen NATO-Ukraine cooperation. The Secretary General underlined that NATO and Ukraine have supported each other throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Stoltenberg added that NATO’s Pandemic Response Trust Fund will be used to deliver critical medical supplies to Ukraine, including portable oxygen concentrators, mobile X-ray units and personal protective equipment. A large quantity of disinfectant will also be delivered.
The Secretary General and Prime Minister also discussed the security situation in Ukraine and the Black Sea region. Mr. Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, noting that NATO has stepped up its presence in the Black Sea region. The Secretary General also welcomed Ukraine’s efforts to implement major reforms, which support its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Civilian airlines will be able to use new south-west air routes in the lower airspace over Kosovo. Significant progress has been made in the normalisation of lower airspace over Kosovo, supported by NATO’s air transport normalisation process in the Balkans. It will improve the route of civil air traffic to and from Pristina Airport, with a number of benefits, including faster travel, lower fuel consumption and reduced pollution.
NATO has been supporting the normalisation of airspace use over Kosovo since 1999 by chairing aviation normalisation meetings in the Balkans. In 2014, its upper airspace over Kosovo was reopened. With the involvement of Hungarocontrol, Hungary guaranteed the control of flights over 21,000 feet. In recent years, NATO has facilitated the formalisation of the Framework Agreement between KFOR and Iceland through the Balkans Aviation Normalisation Meetings. The Icelandic Transport Safety Agency (ICETRA) is now acting as a safety oversight function, supporting the KFOR Commander, who retains primary authority over the use of airspace over Kosovo. It will review all technical solutions that will allow the creation of new direct routes in the lower airspace between Pristina and other cities.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg argued for further strengthening NATO-EU cooperation and the NATO 2030 initiative, on 26 February in the European Council.
Countries and continents cannot face today’s challenges alone – Europe and North America need to work together more closely. Ninety percent of EU citizens live in a NATO country, and share the same neighbourhood and the same challenges, so NATO and the EU should cooperate, invest in new technologies, combat climate change, and support partners.
On 15 February NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters, declared the NATO AGS RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft initially operationally ready to conduct missions. This is a major milestone for the programme, which will substantially increase the Alliance’s awareness, indications and warnings of what is happening around its borders.
NATO’s AGS system will provide a unique state-of-the-art capability for all 30 Alliance Members, with a platform adapted to meet NATO’s Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance requirements. This will provide NATO decision-makers with valuable information based on a comprehensive picture of conditions on the ground, at any time.
The NATO-owned and operated AGS capability enables the Alliance to perform persistent surveillance over wide areas from high-altitude long-endurance aircraft, operating at considerable distances and in any weather or light condition. Using advanced radar sensors, these systems will continuously detect and track moving objects and will provide radar imagery of areas of interest and stationary objects.
The aircraft will be piloted remotely from Sigonella in Sicily and will mostly fly within NATO airspace or international airspace. On June 4, 2020, NATO conducted its first training and familiarisation flight with an RQ-4D Phoenix aircraft. Since then, numerous sorties have taken place resulting in the successful collection of air surveillance data proving the capability of the platform for NATO.
Thirteen Allies and one partner nation have committed to creating a multinational solution for addressing all of their air munition needs, on 19 February.
The Defence Ministers of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and partner nation Finland, signed an amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Air-to-Ground Precision Guided Munitions (A2G-PGM) High Visibility Project, expanding it into a more comprehensive Air Battle Decisive Munitions (ABDM) framework.
This expansion will leverage the success of the first and second acquisition cycles of the A2G-PGM project. Through these, participants achieved cost savings of around 15 to 20 percent, and accelerated the delivery of munitions by up to one year.
Belgium joined Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Turkey, to work on establishing a network of pilot training facilities across Europe.
The NFTE aims to ensure that sufficient state-of-the-art pilot training is available around Europe in a manner that is cost-efficient and interoperable. This is really important, since the US training centre’s capacity is limited.
The initiative will leverage existing national and multinational facilities in Europe and, where necessary, expand or potentially create new training capacity to address training requirements for all different types of pilots.
Belgium joined the project by signing, with the existing project participants, an amendment to the initiative’s Letter of Intent, in the margins of the virtual February Defence Ministerial Meeting. At the meeting the minister also announced that they want to continue and expand the project.
An important cooperation agreement was signed by North Macedonia’s Minister of Defence Ms. Radmila Shekerinska and NATO’s Assistant Secretary General David van Weel, in the middle of February. The cooperation facilitates information-sharing on cyber threats and best practices, helps prevent cyber incidents and will enable North Macedonia to increase its resilience to cyber threats.
NATO has similar agreements with all of its Allies, which promote ever-closer cooperation on cyber defence, mutual assistance in case of need, as well as the exchange of information and experience.
Jens Stoltenberg thanked the Belgian Defence Minister for Belgium’s contributions to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission, the multinational battlegroups in the Baltic region and NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.
The main issue of the meeting was the future of NATO’s presence in Afghanistan. Mr. Stoltenberg said that NATO has to decide whether to stay and continue military engagement or leave and risk that Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.
The Secretary General stressed that NATO still considers the Taliban unacceptably violent, as they have not reduced violence or cut ties to terror groups so far. Nevertheless, Mr. Stoltenberg said that the Alliance prevented another 9/11, therefore NATO has achieved its goal in Afghanistan. Finally, he stated, “Whatever path we choose, we must ensure Afghanistan is never again a base for terrorism.”