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When it comes to special forces, turns out NATO is less about covert ops and more about computers.
Around 150 miles from the Russian border, a dozen tan tents surrounded by razor wire covered the tarmac of a nondescript airfield in southern Estonia — a frontline for the military alliance as confronts a newly assertive Kremlin.
Within the tents was the new heart of NATO special operations — filled with forces firing off emails instead of bullets and an arsenal of everyday office technology.
"It has less to do with boots on the ground than it does with our ability to stay networked,” explained Lt. Gen. Marshall Web, the NATO Special Operations Headquarters Commander.
He said the emphasis on software over secret missions is critical given the NATO alliance's multinational make-up.
"Left to their own devices everyone migrates to their own systems,” Webb explained, saying that's where his tan tents come into play.
The tents housed Special Operations Component Command (SOCC) Core — a readily deployable command and control unit tasked with coordinating teams from NATO's 28 nations.
“You’re not having to track across various nations secret systems,” Webb said. "it’s all networked."
The network's attention is now aimed squarely at Russia amid rising tensions between Moscow and the West — exacerbated recently by Finland and Sweden's moves to establish closer ties with NATO.
“For whatever reasons Russia has decided to steer away from having a partnership with the greater part of Europe,” he said. “Clearly Russia is not pleased with the direction that NATO has gone.”