U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis will seek broad agreement for the plan in Brussels on Thursday when alliance defence ministers meet, laying the ground for endorsement by NATO leaders at a summit in July, four U.S. and NATO officials and diplomats told Reuters.
Known as 30-30-30-30, the plan would require NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons and 30 ships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert.
It does not discuss specific troop numbers or a deadline for setting up the strategy. The size of battalions vary across NATO, from 600 to 1,000 soldiers.
That lays down a challenge for European governments, pilloried by U.S. President Donald Trump for slashing military spending after the Cold War, to remedy long-running problems with helicopters and jets that are grounded for lack of parts.
“We have an adversary (Russia) that can move quickly into the Baltics and Poland in a ground attack,” said one senior NATO diplomat who was briefed on the U.S. plans. “We don’t have the luxury of taking months to mobilise.”
One U.S. official said the initiative was primarily aimed at countering Russia and fit with the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defence Strategy, which accuses Moscow of seeking to “shatter the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.”
Russia’s war games last year, involving what Western officials said were 100,000 troops, also prompted concerns about accidental conflicts that could be triggered by such exercises, or any incursions into Russian-speaking regions in the Baltics.
The Kremlin firmly rejects any such aims and says NATO is the security threat in eastern Europe.
“This idea, even if it flies, which I hope it won’t, would only increase tensions in an increasingly sensitive part of Europe,” Russia’s envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, told reporters when asked about the proposal.