US calls for larger rapid-reaction NATO force to counter Russia

US calls for larger rapid-reaction NATO force to counter Russia
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Faced with fears of a Russian conflict in Europe, the United States has reportedly asked NATO commanders to ensure that at least 30,000 troops and accompanying aircraft and ships can reach any location within 30 days

NATO has a rapid-reaction force of 5,000 troops meant to aid one of its members quickly if it comes under attack or invasion, but has no solid plans for a broad NATO mobilization if Russia attempted to annex lands around its border like it did in 2014 when it seized Crimea from Ukraine, which is not a member of the treaty organization.

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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Mattis dismisses reports of his exit: 'I love it here' Publisher says Woodward book sales largest in its history MORE has told the alliance that it needs to quicken decision-making and have units ready to deploy in short notice, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

NATO officials are debating the issue and hope to reach an agreement before a July summit, though officials told the Journal there is widespread acceptance of the U.S. position.

The recent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England, earlier this month has set the U.S. and European allies on high alert against Moscow.

Russia denies the allegation that it conducted the attack, but the U.S., Canada and other European countries moved to expel Russian officials in a coordinated protest to the nerve-agent attack.

Nations are also working to ramp up defense spending per a 2014 NATO agreement to contribute 2 percent of their gross domestic product to defense spending by 2024.

And the European Union on Wednesday launched an initiative to upgrade and strengthen military transport routes.

The U.S. Army in Europe, meanwhile, constitutes about 30,000 troops, compared to around 300,000 at the height of the Cold War.

The U.S. military had been drawing down its troop presence and shuttering military installations for years, but shifted its stance after Crimea's annexation.

Moving toward a more deterrent stance with Russia, the Army in 2017 shifted to nine-month, back-to-back armored brigade combat-team deployments to Europe. Before that the service had sent tanks in small formations for shorter periods.

The Army in 2017 also began a rotation of aviation brigades to support the new armored brigades.