NATO has announced that the Spearhead Force deployed in Eastern Europe will be extended to 40,000 troops.
The additional troops will include Special Forces and rapid response teams, as well as marine and air units.
Russia has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, which started amid the Ukrainian crisis.
Most of these troops will be stationed near Russian borders.
The announcement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was made in Brussels ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers.
The current strength of the Spearhead Force is 13,000 troops.Secretary General Stoltenberg said the threefold increase in troops was “substantial.”
“This will enable us to deploy our forces as quickly as we need when crises arise, while maintaining full political control,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO member states welcomed the deployment of American military hardware in Europe. Stoltenberg said it doesn’t violate the Alliance’s international obligations. According to the NATO head, the Alliance won’t get into an arms race with Russia, but it has obligations to protect its allies.
NATO is not going to get into an arms race with Russia, yet the alliance has obligations to protect its allies.
NATO aim for a dialogue with Moscow, yet strengthening the Alliance’s defense capabilities doesn’t contradict this goal, said Stoltenberg. He stressed that strong defense is one of the conditions for a dialogue with Russia.
Although military cooperation between the Alliance and Moscow is on hold, political dialogue on various levels is ongoing. Direct communications between the militaries are also active to avoid incorrect interpretations of military activities.
On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that Washington plans to station its military hardware, including tanks and armored vehicles, in a number of European countries.
Heavy armaments are going to be deployed to Europe for the purpose of conducting military drills, said Stoltenberg, answering a question about the move being possibly considered a provocation against Russia.
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania will be hosting up to 250 vehicles, including Abrams tanks, Bradley armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.
NATO is preparing to adopt an assistance package for Moldova to help it modernized its forces, Stoltenberg said.