NATO have announced plans to potentially station permanent military units in member states that border Russia, in order to protect them from what it says are “Russian threats”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the plans on Thursday, in a move which will see NATO discard the previous policy it had with Russia since 1997, when both sides signed an agreement called Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security.
The 1997 agreement meant that NATO would refrain from any “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” that might upset the Kremlin.
“The important thing is that we have military presence,” the NATO head, however, said, hinting that the past attitude might be changing.
“To some extent,” he said, “it is artificial to distinguish between occasional military presence and other kinds that are more persistent.”
Stoltenberg also voiced concern over Russian military presence in the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean, where the reinforcement is supporting Russia’s weeks-long combat mission against terrorist groups in Syria.
“This is a military buildup which provides the Russians with what many experts call Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities,” he said, accusing Moscow of trying to block the alliance out of some areas.
“We have to be sure we are able to overcome these capabilities so we can reinforce and deploy forces if needed,” he added.
Relations between Russia and NATO strained after Ukraine’s Crimea region integrated into the Russian Federation following a referendum last March. On April 1, 2014, the military alliance ended all practical cooperation with Russia over the ensuing crisis in Ukraine.
The United States and its allies accuse Russia of supporting the pro-Moscow fighters in eastern Ukraine, and having supplied them with military aid, reinforcements, and resources. Moscow has denied the charges, saying any support from Moscow has only been of a humanitarian nature.