Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its subsequent meddling in eastern Ukraine have triggered vigilance in nearby Poland, the Baltic states and Scandinavia.
Within Moscow’s orbit during Soviet times, Poland and the Baltic three — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — are raising military spending and have asked NATO allies, particularly the US, to step up their presence.
NATO already runs air policing missions in its formerly Soviet-ruled Baltic members bordering Russia.
To counter increased Russian military drills in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, the alliance is strengthening defenses on its eastern flank with a spearhead force of 5,000 troops and command centers in places like Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.
Central European heavyweight Poland has kicked off an unprecedented military spending spree worth some €33.6 billion ($42 billion) to overhaul its forces over a decade.
Its long shopping list includes an anti-missile shield and anti-aircraft systems, armored personnel carriers and submarines as well as combat drones.
The plans bring Warsaw in line with NATO’s recommended defense spending level of two percent of gross domestic product. The country of 38 million has around 100,000 professional soldiers and 20,000 reservists.