NATO's Army to Get Seven Times Larger in Biggest Overhaul Since Cold War

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that the number of NATO troops on high readiness will multiply by over seven times as part of its largest overhaul since the Cold War and in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The NATO Response Force (NRF), which grew significantly in 2014 after Russia invaded Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, is currently made up of around 40,000 troops.

The NRF can quickly be tailored and adjusted in size and capability to match the demands of the operation, according to the alliance's website.

"We will transform the NATO response force and increase the number of our high readiness forces to well over 300,000," Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid that begins on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg said it marked the "biggest overhaul" of NATO's defense units since the Cold War.

He added that NATO members will agree on a "strengthened assistance package" for Ukraine, including anti-drone systems and secure communication.

The security bloc—which has 27 members including the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany and Turkey—has the capability to count on nearly 3.5 million personnel.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

At the Madrid summit later this week, NATO leaders are expected to discuss steps to continue to support Ukraine in the war, as well as membership bids by Sweden and Finland.

The alliance will also alter its language on Russia having described Moscow as a "strategic partner" in 2010.

"That will not be the case in the strategic concept that we will agree in Madrid," Stoltenberg said Monday.

"I expect that allies will state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order."

On June 23, Sky News reported that the security bloc was preparing to expand its army in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Tensions between the alliance and Russia have increased in recent weeks, after Finland and Sweden announced bids to join NATO on May 15. Russia has said it will respond to the two previously non-military aligned states joining the alliance.

On Sunday, a Russian state television host warned that the country is ready to confront the alliance, potentially with nuclear weapons.

Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on June 24 that he believes NATO and the European Union are building a coalition that could eventually wage war with Russia.

The alliance was formed in 1949 by the United States and several Western European countries to provide collective security against the Soviet Union.

Update 6/27/22, 10:04 a.m. EDT: This article has been updated to include more details.

Jens Stoltenberg NATO
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday NATO will significantly ramp up its forces on high readiness to “well over 300,000." Pictured, Stoltenberg at the closing press conference at NATO headquarters during the second of two days of defense ministers' meetings on June 16, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium. Getty