NATO bolsters troops and equipment on eastern flank – Times of India


BRUSSELS: NATO defense ministers on Thursday discussed ways to bolster troops and deterrence along the military alliance’s eastern borders to deter Russia from planning further aggression in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian invasion has prompted allies to rethink their strategies and agree that NATO forces should be present in greater numbers on that eastern flank. NATO says it has placed more than 40,000 troops under direct command, mainly on the eastern flank, and is looking at further strengthening its presence, preparedness and capabilities.
“This means more battle formations deployed by NATO, to bolster our battle groups in the eastern part of the alliance, more air, naval and cyber defenses, as well as pre-positioned equipment and weapons stockpiles,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting.
The meeting of defense ministers took place ahead of a June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid, which will seek to outline a roadmap for the alliance in the coming years.
Germany has already announced plans to strengthen its involvement in Lithuania, while France is looking to increase its presence in Romania, where it plans to deploy 1,000 troops with Leclerc tanks by the end of the year.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to give details of any changes to US positioning of troops across Europe, but said the US and its allies will take steps to deploy troops quickly if necessary. That includes placing more equipment in the region and putting troops on higher alert levels.
“All our allies have learned from any shortcomings we have encountered in the past, and they will build to ensure they have the appropriate capabilities to deliver flexible and accountable and credible forces when the time comes,” he said. †
Artis Pabriks, Latvia’s defense minister, said the military alliance should position greater forces and equipment in the Baltic countries.
“We want better planning. We want a headquarters structure. We want to position different types of equipment in advance, so if a crisis were to come, we should not wait,” he said.
Stoltenberg said the issue of pre-positioned equipment is crucial because moving armored vehicles, supplies and ammunition takes a lot of time.
“Then, of course, it’s much easier and faster to amplify when needed,” he said.
Stoltenberg said ministers have made “significant progress” in their discussions on a new force model that would involve more forces with higher readiness and others assigned to defend specific allies.
Discussions in Brussels also focused on the need for increased defense spending, Stoltenberg said, while bids from Sweden and Finland to join the alliance were also on the table.
Stoltenberg greeted the United States’ decision to send an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine and said NATO allies are “willing to continue to provide substantial, unprecedented support” to the country.
The latest package, the US said, includes anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more cartridges for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems on which US troops train Ukrainian troops. They are all key weapons systems that Ukrainian leaders have urgently requested in their struggle to slow down Russia’s advance to conquer the eastern Donbas region.
Austin praised Finland and Sweden’s “historic decision” to apply for NATO membership and expressed hope that talks will continue to progress well.
However, Turkey has resisted the Nordic pair’s accession to NATO and Stoltenberg has worked hard to break the deadlock. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is refusing to yield to what he believes is Sweden and Finland’s alleged support for Kurdish militants.
“My goal is to find a solution as quickly as possible,” Stoltenberg said.

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