Bratislava, 1 June 2019 – Lawmakers from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly urged Alliance governments Saturday to invest more in key maritime assets needed to counter growing Russian threats to security in the North Atlantic, as well as maintaining a robust programme of military exercises to enhance Allied force readiness.
“Increased Russian military presence poses new threats to Allied freedom of manoeuvre in the vital transatlantic space,” cautioned Sir Nicholas Soames, a British Member of Parliament who presented a draft report on Atlantic Security at the NATO PA’s Spring Session, held this year in Bratislava.
“Over the last two decades, however, Allies have retired, withdrawn, or decommissioned most of their assets from this area,” Soames told the Assembly’s Defence and Security Committee. “Allied strategic vulnerability in the North Atlantic is a growing concern.”
Soames’ draft report was one of several concerned with the need to hone NATO defences in the face of growing security challenges from Russia and elsewhere. It put forward recommendations for Allied governments to maintain control in a theatre that “serves as the very embodiment of the transatlantic Alliance.”
They include: revamping military bases in strategic points around the Atlantic; reversing cuts in naval fleets that have halved the number of destroyers, frigates and submarines from Cold War levels; investing in modern maritime patrol planes; building infrastructure to facilitate troop movements across the Atlantic; and increased training and exercising focused on anti-submarine capabilities.
A separate draft report by Portuguese legislator Lara Martinho recommended a heightened programme of military exercises to boost readiness and cooperation among Allied forces.
“As Russia expands its military capabilities, an increased and robust exercising schedule is essential to test and certify NATO’s evolving defence and deterrence posture,” Martinho said.
Such exercises can also play a crucial role highlighting areas for improvement, such as barriers to military mobility and the need for improved infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
Another draft report went into more detail on efforts to rebuild NATO’s anti-submarine capabilities which, it said, have atrophied to dangerous levels.
“NATO can no longer be in a situation where its ASW (anti-submarine warfare) could potentially be overwhelmed,” said the report drafted by Leona Alleslev, a Canadian lawmaker, for the Assembly’s Science and Technology Committee.
She added that investment in ASW could be a test of the Alliance’s ability to turnaround a shrinking technical advantage. “NATO’s science and technology edge is eroding,” Alleslev warned. “ASW is an area where NATO can make great strides jointly.”