Nato is to deploy its forces at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time, in response to the Ukraine crisis and in an attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from causing trouble in the former Soviet Baltic republics, according to its secretary general.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the organisations’s summit in Cardiff next week would overcome divisions within the alliance and agree to new deployments on Russia‘s borders – a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.
He also outlined moves to boost Ukraine’s security, “modernise” its armed forces and help the country counter the threat from Russia.
Rasmussen said: “We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe. We have something already called the Nato response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness.
“In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible Nato presence in the east.”
Poland and the three Baltic states have been alarmed at the perceived threat from Russia and have been clamouring for a stronger Nato presence in the region. They have criticised what they see as tokenism in the alliance’s response so far.
But the issue of permanent Nato bases in east Europe is divisive. The French, Italians and Spanish are opposed while the Americans and British are supportive of the eastern European demands. The Germans, said a Nato official, were sitting on the fence, wary of provoking Russia.