Breaking News NATO asks members to step up mobilization preparations

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NATO Wants Everyone to Help Deter Russia​



NATO will call for all 32 members to put in place civil defense plans in case of an Article 5-level attack at the alliance’s Washington summit, officials familiar with the plan told Foreign Policy.

“We’re going to push the idea in Washington that all allies should commit to having some kind of national planning process that brings together both the military planning and civilian planning for Article 5,” said one NATO official, speaking anonymously based on conditions set by the alliance.

The move is part of an ongoing effort within NATO to prepare for a possible future Russian attack on the alliance that members believe is likely to include long-range missile strikes, disinformation, disruption of ports, and assaults on the energy grid—similar to what the Ukrainians have faced during the country’s full-scale invasion.

The expectation is that countries may have to plan to fend for themselves while they wait for NATO’s political leaders to decide whether to invoke self-defense.

“You have to be capable of being defendable while waiting for Article 5 to come into play,” said Dalia Bankauskaite, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based think tank. “You have to be self-sufficient for self-defense within your territory with whatever resources you have.”

THE NOTION THAT EUROPE HAS TO PREPARE FOR WAR after NATO’s 75 mostly peaceful years of post-World War II life is slowly becoming the status quo in many allied governments as they grapple with a resurgent Russia that is picking itself up off the canvas from the initial beating it took in Ukraine far faster than anyone expected. But the alarm bells are coming as a shock to the global public square.

Swedish defense chief Gen. Micael Byden’s January statement that all Swedes should mentally prepare for conflict went viral on TikTok. Frightened children and teens flooded the telephone lines of Sweden’s largest child protection group. Then-British Army chief Gen. Patrick Sanders called on Britons to get ready for a level of mobilization not seen since World War II, forcing the press flacks at No. 10 Downing St. to clarify that they weren’t reinstating the draft. (Sanders also got a tongue-lashing from his boss.) German officials have even suggested that Russia could conduct missile attacks against NATO countries.

The reaction within NATO has been to call on member states to further link military planning and civil planning in the event of a regional war. “Deterrence is not only something for the minister of defense and the armed forces—it is a whole-of-society event,” said Royal Netherlands Navy Adm. Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s Military Committee. “Financial institutions have a role to play. Industry has a role to play. We need the right infrastructure in our nations to transport military equipment over roads, over bridges. A bridge has to be able to carry a tank.”

NATO countries need sufficient harbor facilities, airports, rail gauges, and energy infrastructure that are not dependent on a small handful of nations. The idea is for each country to have a plan for ensuring continuity of civil government, food, and fuel in the event of a crisis, NATO officials said.

NATO will also have to think about how to deconflict roads and transportation networks in a war if masses of people move west while tanks and logistics trains move east. Countries such as Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland are coming up with plans to evacuate civilians at least 50 miles from the front lines of a conflict with Russia, Bankauskaite said.

THE PROBLEM OF PREPAREDNESS FOR AN ALLIANCE covering more than 10 million square miles and 970 million people—about 4 million of them in uniform—is sprawling. It doesn’t lend itself well to neatly drawn government organizational charts and jurisdictional boundaries; it’s somewhere between defense and homeland security.

But the idea that NATO members need to build up antibodies to resist an attack dates back to the alliance’s founding. Eight years ago, NATO leaders built on that foundation with seven planning requirements for resilience. And they added to that in the 2023 Vilnius summit communique, calling resilience a basis for credible deterrence and defense.

Still, there’s no 2 percent standard for resilience. Just as NATO nations have the ability to set their own defense budgets and structure their own militaries to fit their plans, officials said, member states are likely to be able to set their own requirements for civil defense. The standards will vary from country to country.

“It doesn’t have to be the same, because each country is different,” said one Nordic official involved in the planning. “But everybody should have a minimum level of resilience.”

NATO also has a pool of civil experts to build capacity for resilience in countries that are less prepared. The European Union also has pre-positioned medical stockpiles and supplies of equipment to protect civilians from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.

Some think that the urgency is still being driven by the United States putting more and more troops in Europe to reinforce NATO soil against Russia. “Since the beginning of this war, the U.S. presence in Europe has steadily gained,” said retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, a former NATO supreme allied commander and head of U.S. European Command. “What we see today are further refinements and continued efforts toward getting more ready.”

Historically, the Nordic countries have set the pace for NATO, and many of the new alliance members in the region are already out in front. Newly minted NATO member Sweden has a so-called “total defense” plan that calls on every citizen between the ages of 16 and 70 to help the nation prepare for war, whether through military conscription or assisting with emergency services. Stockholm is set to update the plans this year. They’ve been learning from the Ukrainians: Swedish Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin has made multiple visits to Kyiv since the Russian invasion began.

Sweden, which already regularly issues a pamphlet to all 10 million citizens with checklists for how to prepare for a terrorist attack or war, plans to update it later this year. “It will reflect the more dire security situation that we are finding ourselves in now,” Bohlin said. There is even consideration about whether to invoke civil conscription for the rescue services.

Finland, which has universal male conscription, can mobilize 300,000 reservists to fight with a snap of its fingers. The Finns also have a rule of thumb to stockpile enough food, water, and medicine to last 72 hours. Helsinki has increased stockpiling requirements for petroleum by businesses and government entities to a five-month supply. Even the mindset in Finland is changing toward a more wartime economy, the Nordic official said.

Countries have also begun dusting off and tallying up their Cold War-era bomb shelters. Sweden has 65,000 shelters, enough for about 7 million people. Finland has 50,500 shelters, with space for about 90 percent of Finns. Norway has some 20,000, enough for about half the population.

The Baltic countries took up “total defense” plans after the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas in 2014. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are building a 600-mile line of defense installations along their borders with Russia. Latvia has reinstated a military draft.

These are necessary measures, Baltic officials said, with Russia already conducting low-level hybrid warfare activities on NATO soil, from vandalism to beatings of dissidents in Eastern Europe.

“We know for a fact that there is an active kinetic activity happening in the Baltic states, in the wider region, today,” Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s top diplomat, said at an event in March at the National Press Club in Washington. “Russia is able to have people for hire that would in some cases vandalize buildings, tear down the flags—such things that have happened in Lithuania—and attack people.”

THE CALL FOR NEW CIVIL DEFENSE REQUIREMENTS is a window into how European societies are changing—and how they will need to change—in light of Russia’s growing military threat. Russia has fired missiles at Ukraine’s electrical grid, kidnapped Ukrainian children, and attacked the transit corridors for much of the world’s grain. NATO is preparing for Russian President Vladimir Putin to use the same playbook in an Article 5-level assault on the allies.

“It’s not only about military effects,” said Bauer, the NATO military chief. “It’s also about hybrid warfare. It’s about energy. It’s about migration. It’s about food. All these things have been used by Putin [and] will be used again by Putin.”

A new reality of preparing for war could have expansive ripple effects on civilian life after seven decades of mostly peaceful times on the continent. But NATO nations will need a plan to deal with Russia’s efforts to target civilians—through attacks on critical infrastructure and buildings, neighborhoods, and schools as well as through disinformation that has been on display in two years of full-scale war in Ukraine.

NATO militaries have become adept at dealing with small numbers of wounded soldiers in the past two decades, as most of the alliance fought in Afghanistan. But in an Article 5-level war, there might be mass military and civilian casualties all at once, and hospitals may need to run around the clock.

The logic goes that the quicker NATO countries can prepare, the readier they will be for massive numbers of troops to flow in. Especially in NATO’s front-line states, where nations are on heightened alert about Russia’s hybrid threats, there’s a desire to start pushing back.

“They are pushing the line,” said Landsbergis, the Lithuanian foreign minister. “They are testing us. And I’m sure that somewhere down the line, we will have to start pushing back

 

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NATO Wants Everyone to Help Deter Russia​



NATO will call for all 32 members to put in place civil defense plans in case of an Article 5-level attack at the alliance’s Washington summit, officials familiar with the plan told Foreign Policy.

“We’re going to push the idea in Washington that all allies should commit to having some kind of national planning process that brings together both the military planning and civilian planning for Article 5,” said one NATO official, speaking anonymously based on conditions set by the alliance.

The move is part of an ongoing effort within NATO to prepare for a possible future Russian attack on the alliance that members believe is likely to include long-range missile strikes, disinformation, disruption of ports, and assaults on the energy grid—similar to what the Ukrainians have faced during the country’s full-scale invasion.

The expectation is that countries may have to plan to fend for themselves while they wait for NATO’s political leaders to decide whether to invoke self-defense.

“You have to be capable of being defendable while waiting for Article 5 to come into play,” said Dalia Bankauskaite, a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based think tank. “You have to be self-sufficient for self-defense within your territory with whatever resources you have.”

THE NOTION THAT EUROPE HAS TO PREPARE FOR WAR after NATO’s 75 mostly peaceful years of post-World War II life is slowly becoming the status quo in many allied governments as they grapple with a resurgent Russia that is picking itself up off the canvas from the initial beating it took in Ukraine far faster than anyone expected. But the alarm bells are coming as a shock to the global public square.

Swedish defense chief Gen. Micael Byden’s January statement that all Swedes should mentally prepare for conflict went viral on TikTok. Frightened children and teens flooded the telephone lines of Sweden’s largest child protection group. Then-British Army chief Gen. Patrick Sanders called on Britons to get ready for a level of mobilization not seen since World War II, forcing the press flacks at No. 10 Downing St. to clarify that they weren’t reinstating the draft. (Sanders also got a tongue-lashing from his boss.) German officials have even suggested that Russia could conduct missile attacks against NATO countries.

The reaction within NATO has been to call on member states to further link military planning and civil planning in the event of a regional war. “Deterrence is not only something for the minister of defense and the armed forces—it is a whole-of-society event,” said Royal Netherlands Navy Adm. Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s Military Committee. “Financial institutions have a role to play. Industry has a role to play. We need the right infrastructure in our nations to transport military equipment over roads, over bridges. A bridge has to be able to carry a tank.”

NATO countries need sufficient harbor facilities, airports, rail gauges, and energy infrastructure that are not dependent on a small handful of nations. The idea is for each country to have a plan for ensuring continuity of civil government, food, and fuel in the event of a crisis, NATO officials said.

NATO will also have to think about how to deconflict roads and transportation networks in a war if masses of people move west while tanks and logistics trains move east. Countries such as Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland are coming up with plans to evacuate civilians at least 50 miles from the front lines of a conflict with Russia, Bankauskaite said.

THE PROBLEM OF PREPAREDNESS FOR AN ALLIANCE covering more than 10 million square miles and 970 million people—about 4 million of them in uniform—is sprawling. It doesn’t lend itself well to neatly drawn government organizational charts and jurisdictional boundaries; it’s somewhere between defense and homeland security.

But the idea that NATO members need to build up antibodies to resist an attack dates back to the alliance’s founding. Eight years ago, NATO leaders built on that foundation with seven planning requirements for resilience. And they added to that in the 2023 Vilnius summit communique, calling resilience a basis for credible deterrence and defense.

Still, there’s no 2 percent standard for resilience. Just as NATO nations have the ability to set their own defense budgets and structure their own militaries to fit their plans, officials said, member states are likely to be able to set their own requirements for civil defense. The standards will vary from country to country.

“It doesn’t have to be the same, because each country is different,” said one Nordic official involved in the planning. “But everybody should have a minimum level of resilience.”

NATO also has a pool of civil experts to build capacity for resilience in countries that are less prepared. The European Union also has pre-positioned medical stockpiles and supplies of equipment to protect civilians from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.

Some think that the urgency is still being driven by the United States putting more and more troops in Europe to reinforce NATO soil against Russia. “Since the beginning of this war, the U.S. presence in Europe has steadily gained,” said retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, a former NATO supreme allied commander and head of U.S. European Command. “What we see today are further refinements and continued efforts toward getting more ready.”

Historically, the Nordic countries have set the pace for NATO, and many of the new alliance members in the region are already out in front. Newly minted NATO member Sweden has a so-called “total defense” plan that calls on every citizen between the ages of 16 and 70 to help the nation prepare for war, whether through military conscription or assisting with emergency services. Stockholm is set to update the plans this year. They’ve been learning from the Ukrainians: Swedish Civil Defense Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin has made multiple visits to Kyiv since the Russian invasion began.

Sweden, which already regularly issues a pamphlet to all 10 million citizens with checklists for how to prepare for a terrorist attack or war, plans to update it later this year. “It will reflect the more dire security situation that we are finding ourselves in now,” Bohlin said. There is even consideration about whether to invoke civil conscription for the rescue services.

Finland, which has universal male conscription, can mobilize 300,000 reservists to fight with a snap of its fingers. The Finns also have a rule of thumb to stockpile enough food, water, and medicine to last 72 hours. Helsinki has increased stockpiling requirements for petroleum by businesses and government entities to a five-month supply. Even the mindset in Finland is changing toward a more wartime economy, the Nordic official said.

Countries have also begun dusting off and tallying up their Cold War-era bomb shelters. Sweden has 65,000 shelters, enough for about 7 million people. Finland has 50,500 shelters, with space for about 90 percent of Finns. Norway has some 20,000, enough for about half the population.

The Baltic countries took up “total defense” plans after the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas in 2014. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are building a 600-mile line of defense installations along their borders with Russia. Latvia has reinstated a military draft.

These are necessary measures, Baltic officials said, with Russia already conducting low-level hybrid warfare activities on NATO soil, from vandalism to beatings of dissidents in Eastern Europe.

“We know for a fact that there is an active kinetic activity happening in the Baltic states, in the wider region, today,” Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s top diplomat, said at an event in March at the National Press Club in Washington. “Russia is able to have people for hire that would in some cases vandalize buildings, tear down the flags—such things that have happened in Lithuania—and attack people.”

THE CALL FOR NEW CIVIL DEFENSE REQUIREMENTS is a window into how European societies are changing—and how they will need to change—in light of Russia’s growing military threat. Russia has fired missiles at Ukraine’s electrical grid, kidnapped Ukrainian children, and attacked the transit corridors for much of the world’s grain. NATO is preparing for Russian President Vladimir Putin to use the same playbook in an Article 5-level assault on the allies.

“It’s not only about military effects,” said Bauer, the NATO military chief. “It’s also about hybrid warfare. It’s about energy. It’s about migration. It’s about food. All these things have been used by Putin [and] will be used again by Putin.”

A new reality of preparing for war could have expansive ripple effects on civilian life after seven decades of mostly peaceful times on the continent. But NATO nations will need a plan to deal with Russia’s efforts to target civilians—through attacks on critical infrastructure and buildings, neighborhoods, and schools as well as through disinformation that has been on display in two years of full-scale war in Ukraine.

NATO militaries have become adept at dealing with small numbers of wounded soldiers in the past two decades, as most of the alliance fought in Afghanistan. But in an Article 5-level war, there might be mass military and civilian casualties all at once, and hospitals may need to run around the clock.

The logic goes that the quicker NATO countries can prepare, the readier they will be for massive numbers of troops to flow in. Especially in NATO’s front-line states, where nations are on heightened alert about Russia’s hybrid threats, there’s a desire to start pushing back.

“They are pushing the line,” said Landsbergis, the Lithuanian foreign minister. “They are testing us. And I’m sure that somewhere down the line, we will have to start pushing back

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