NATO Intelligence Center Relocation Delay Set to Be Approved by Congress


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BRUSSELS—The U.S. Congress is set to approve legislation aimed at delaying the shift of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization intelligence center, a move that some proponents say could provide leverage for the incoming Trump administration to prod the alliance into expanding its counterterrorism work.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants NATO to focus more on fighting terrorism and potentially less on countering Russia, a stance that is opposed by many allies.

The final version of the Defense Authorization act, set to be voted on by the House on Friday and the Senate next week, prohibits any funds from being spent to move the so-called NATO Intelligence Fusion Cell from the Molesworth Royal Air Force base, central England, to the Croughton base, about 50 miles southwest.

Mr. Nunes has pushed for the alliance to broaden the mandate of its intelligence center from just focusing on Afghanistan to a wider array of terrorism threats. He has also advocated moving the center closer to NATO's military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, or the alliance's home in Brussels.

"It needs to be in Belgium and it needs to have a counter-terrorism focus," said Mr. Nunes.

The delay is no guarantee the intelligence center will move to Belgium, unless the Trump administration makes a push. U.S. military and NATO officials have said the location of the NATO facility in the U.K. has been approved by the alliance and locating it at Croughton would ensure it is near the U.S., European and Africa command intelligence centers.

Mr. Trump consistently said during the campaign he wanted NATO to focus more on counterterrorism, an issue he raised again last month in a call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO officials said they have been discussing whether to begin a new strategic review of the alliance's mission at the organization's summit next year, and Mr. Trump's election could force that review to be broader than initially planned.

Republican officials said Mr. Trump hasn't examined the issue of NATO's future in depth, and the specific moves the new administration will ask the alliance to take aren't yet clear. The Trump administration could look for the alliance to provide more support in Syria, become more involved in tracking and halting terrorism plots against Europe and America or some combination of both.

But in Europe, there are multiple hurdles to a sharper NATO focus on fighting terrorism.

Such a move—which would require consensus among the 28 allies—is no easy task, with some European nations, like France and Germany, opposed to a prominent role for the alliance in the fight against terrorism, viewing it more as a law-enforcement matter than a military issue. Eastern European countries, including Poland and the Baltic states, are worried about any move that could shift the alliance from a focus on deterring Russia.

Over the course of the year, NATO has slowly taken small steps toward expanding its involvement in the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State.

Germany and France have raised questions about more alliance involvement. French officials have expressed concerns about cumbersome alliance decision-making, while German officials have worried about the negative effects of putting a NATO brand on the campaign, according to alliance officials.

Still, informally U.S. and alliance officials have discussed a what it would take for NATO to become more involved in Iraq, Syria or both once Islamic State fighters no longer control major population centers.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com


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