On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance’s military commanders will draw up plans for new battlegroup deployments in Eastern Europe as part of the effort to build up forces near Russia.
The plans were agreed on during a meeting of NATO’s defense ministers in Brussels that was attended by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The ministers discussed how to increase NATO’s presence in countries closest to Russia and the Black Sea.
“Ministers decided to develop options to further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense, including to consider establishing new NATO battlegroups in central and eastern and southeastern Europe,” Stoltenberg said.
Amid the tensions around Ukraine, the US has deployed about 5,000 troops to Poland and Romania. Stoltenberg didn’t specify where more NATO battlegroups could go, but Romania, a Black Sea nation, is a likely candidate.
In a joint statement, the NATO defense ministers said Russia’s recent actions “pose a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security” and require a greater NATO presence in the region.
“As a consequence and to ensure the defense of all Allies, we are deploying additional land forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional maritime and air assets, as announced by Allies, and have increased the readiness of our forces,” the ministers said.
The US and Russia are currently engaged in negotiations over security proposals put forward by Moscow. One of Russia’s primary objectives is putting an end to NATO’s eastward expansion, so Wednesday’s announcements will likely escalate tensions.
Moscow announced Tuesday that it is pulling back some troops that were near the Ukrainian border. But Stoltenberg doesn’t believe it’s a significant change in Russia’s military posture. “They have always moved forces back and forth, so just that we see movement of forces, that doesn’t confirm a real withdrawal,” he said.