British forces are to play a leading role in the recently announced NATO deployment to Poland and the Baltic States.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
“I confirm today that Britain will be leading one of four framework battalions to offer more Enhanced Forward Presence on the Eastern flank. We are sending a strong signal of unity and our determination to defend the Baltic states and Poland in the face of continued Russian aggression.”
NATO is to deploy four battalions to Poland and the Baltic states as part of a push back against Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
“We will agree to deploy by rotation four robust, multinational battalions in the Baltic states and Poland. This will send a clear signal that NATO stands ready to defend any ally.”
Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014 and its support for ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine has made Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia increasingly anxious about their own security.
Asked about the possibility of an Russian attack, Lithuania’s Defence Minister Juozas Olekas told Reuters:
“We cannot exclude it. They might exercise on the borders and then switch to invasion in hours.”
Britain already undertakes the Baltic air-policing mission, this takes the form of air defence ‘Quick Reaction Alert’ in order to guard the airspace over the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
NATO stressed that the deployment, to be made on a rotational basis is not permanent so as not to infringe existing treaties with Russia, was part of a much wider response to the Ukraine crisis which includes tripling the NATO Response Force to 40,000 men ready to move at short notice, creating a Spearhead Force of about 5,000 on a just few days’ standby.