NATO will 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.
Alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Monday ahead of a meeting of alliance defence ministers today in Brussels:
“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.”
NATO already operates a 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.
It is expected that officials will formally approve the deployment plan this afternoon. Stoltenberg said battalions will work on a rotational basis under the orders of NATO commanders.