The NATO Response Force in Europe might increase to 30,000 troops from the current 13,000, said the alliance’s secretary general ahead of a defense ministers meeting in Brussels. Most of the RDF troops are set to be stationed near to Russia’s borders.
“I expect that the ministers will agree on several important elements of a package that increases our collective defense,” said Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the eve of a meeting of the alliance’s 28 defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The UK has already announced plans to deploy 1,000 troops and four multirole Typhoon fighter jets to join the Response Force in Eastern Europe.
The spearhead of that force will be 5,000 servicemen, distributed among six compact command centers in Eastern Europe, with about only 50 officers in each.
“It is a response to what we have seen from Russia over a period of time and it is in full accordance with our international obligations,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
These six Rapid Deployment Force units to be stationed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are expected to be capable of rapidly reinforcing the region” in response to any threat from Russia,” Reuters reports.
“In Ukraine, violence is getting worse and the crisis is deepening. Russia continues to disregard international rules and to support the separatists,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters before the meeting.
When necessary, this force could be deployed in two days. The remaining 25,000 will be operational within a week.
Last September, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania agreed to form a joint military force (LitPolUkrBrig) to take part in the first joint military drill in 2015.
The Ukrainian parliament ratified the document on Wednesday.
The brigade of approximately 4,500 servicemen (3,500 – Polish, 545 – Ukrainian and up to 350 Lithuanians) is slated to become the UN and EU peacekeeping force, or alternatively form a basis of a NATO battle group in the region bordering Russia.
The purpose of creating that kind of an international brigade raises concerns, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said at a media briefing on Thursday.
Ukraine’s internal conflict has already been internationalized to a great extent and adding the element of joint armed forces to it is absolutely counterproductive and would endanger the situation in the region, Lukashevich said.
The alliance significantly boosted its presence in Eastern Europe last year, citing a growing threat from Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis.
Today, despite the fact that NATO suspended all military cooperation with Russia in 2014, the alliance is keeping open channels with Russian authorities “for political contacts,” Stars and Stripes reported.
On Saturday, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the annual Munich security conference.