Four-NATO-battalions-heading-to-Baltic-States-Poland. BRUSSELS, NATO plans to send four multinational battalions to the Baltic states and Poland to increase defenses against Russia.
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said defense ministers plan to formally approve the plans in talks that begin Tuesday in Brussels.
“Over the next two days, we will take a series of important decisions to strengthen our collective defense and enhance our cooperation with partners,” he said in a briefing with the media.
Stoltenberg said the decision will provide “the right balance between a greater ability to reinforce, and boost our forward presence.”
Decisions made at the meetings, he said, will pave the way for the Warsaw Summit in July.
The United States, Germany and United Kingdom will act as framework nations for three of the battalions. The fourth battalion’s makeup wasn’t revealed.
“This will send a clear signal that NATO stands ready to defend any ally,” the NATO chief said.
In 2014, Great Britain sent 1,000 troops to join a NATO rapid response force against Russian aggression in Ukraine and eastern Europe.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland already host troops on a temporary basis.
NATO last week launched the largest war games exercise in eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Named Anaconda-2016, the 10-day military exercise began in Poland and involved 31,000 troops and thousands of vehicles from 24 countries. The exercise was designed to reassure NATO allies in the region and as a show of strength to Russia.
Defense ministers will also discuss how NATO can strengthen local forces against terrorism and will assess how NATO can support the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean sea.
On Tuesday, ministers also explore additional assistance for Ukraine and Georgia.
“We are concerned about the security situation, amid continued ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
The Baltic states and Poland are discussing a regional anti-aircraft missile shield to protect against Russian aircraft.
“We are in discussions now with the Estonians, the Latvians and the Poles over how we can create some kind of regional air defense system,” Lithuanian defense minister Juozas Olekas told the Financial Times on Friday.
By Allen Cone