BRUSSELS (AP) – NATO member nations on Wednesday discussed new ways to bolster the defenses of nations on the organization’s eastern flank as Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine fuels one of the biggest security crises in Europe for decades.
For two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels, defense ministers were due to discuss how and when to quickly send troops and equipment to the countries closest to Russia and the sea region. Black if Moscow ordered an invasion of Ukraine.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his counterparts also plan to assess the possibility of stationing longer-term troops in southeastern Europe, possibly starting later this year. The troops would reflect the presence of some 5,000 military personnel who have been stationed in allied nations Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on a rotational basis in recent years.
The United States has begun deploying 5,000 troops to Poland and Romania. Britain sends hundreds of soldiers to Poland and offers more warships and planes. Germany, the Netherlands and Norway send additional troops to Lithuania. Denmark and Spain provide jets for air policing.
“The fact that we have deployed more NATO troops on the ground, more naval assets, more aircraft, all of this sends a very clear message,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “I think there is no room for miscalculation in Moscow about our commitment to defending our allies.”
This deployment responds to a formidable challenge.
Over the past four months, Russia is estimated to have amassed around 60% of its entire ground forces and a significant part of its air forces in northern and eastern Ukraine, as well as in Belarus. neighbor. Moscow looks set to repeat its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, but on a larger scale.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants NATO, the world’s largest security organization, to stop expanding. It demands that the US-led alliance withdraw its troops and equipment from countries that joined after 1997 – almost half of NATO’s 30 ranks.
NATO cannot agree to his terms. Its founding treaty commits to an ‘open door’ policy for European countries wishing to join, and a mutual defense clause ensures that all members will come to the defense of a threatened ally.
Ukraine, however, is not a member and NATO as an organization is unwilling to defend it.
“We have to understand that Ukraine is a partner. We support Ukraine. But for all NATO allies, we provide 100% security guarantees,” Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.
That said, some member countries help Ukraine more directly, such as the United States, Britain and Canada.
“We will provide lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine. This is a very important issue for all of us,” said Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand.
But the “massive costs” promised to Putin if he ordered an invasion would be economic and political, mainly in the form of sanctions, which are not part of NATO’s remit. The alliance offered Russia a series of talks on security, including arms control.
Over the past two days, Russia has said it was returning troops and weapons to bases, but Stoltenberg said the allies had seen no concrete signs of a withdrawal and fears that Russia would not invading Ukraine persists.
“They’ve always moved forces back and forth, so just that we’re seeing movement of forces, it doesn’t confirm a true pullback,” Stoltenberg said. “The trend in recent weeks and months has been a steady increase in Russian capabilities near Ukraine’s borders.”
Russia poses no direct threat to the security of any NATO country, but the alliance is concerned about the fallout from any conflict in Ukraine, such as a wave of people fleeing the fighting across European borders, or d possible cyberattacks and disinformation attacks.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine tension at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine