Nato will establish rapid reaction force to counter perceived threat of Russian aggression

Feb 9, 2015 by

Command posts to be set up in six eastern members states in show of solidarity and resolve following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine

Nato secretary general outlines plans for a network of command centres in eastern Europe reinforce the region against any threat from Russia

Nato declared on Thursday it will set up six new command posts on its eastern borders and create a 5,000-strong rapid reaction force in an effort to show resolve and solidarity in the face of what the alliance brands Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Announcing the new force in Brussels on Thursday, the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said it was “the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the cold war.”

Some elements of the new force will be able to deploy to a flash point with 48-hours notice, Stoltenberg said, with the rest being able to move in a week, much faster than current Nato response times. It will be supported by air and sea forces as well as special operations units, and two more land brigades on standby in the event of a major crisis. Altogether, 30,000 Nato troops will be assigned to bolster the alliance’s eastern defences.

New Nato command posts will immediately be set up in six eastern members states – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria – who have been clamouring for a permanent alliance presence on their soil since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine. They will house about 40 to 60 officers as serve as command and control units, which would help coordinate any deployment of the spearhead force, as well as training.

Deployments to northeast Europe will be overseen by a region headquarters in Szczecin near Poland’s Baltic coast, while deployments in southeast Europe will be overseen by a new headquarters to be established in Romania, at a site that has not yet been announced.

“If a crisis erupts they will ensure that national and Nato forces from across the alliance will be able to act as one from the start,” Stoltenberg said.

Each year, the new “very high readiness” force will be led by a Nato state, which will also provide the majority of the 5,000 troops. This year it is Germany, followed by Spain, then the UK in 2017. Either Italy or Poland will take the lead after that. France has also offered to take a turn.

“That will ensure that the spearhead force can be sustained for the long term,” the secretary general said. “The countries will provide the main elements of the force and help bring together other allies. So it will be truly be a multinational force. This is a strong signal of Nato solidarity and it shows that European allies are fully playing their part, taking the lead in protecting Europe.”

“This is something we do as a response to the aggressive actions we have seen from Russia, violating international law and annexing Crimea,” he said. Stoltenberg voiced full support for the peace initiative led by Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, and called on Russia to agree to settlement and to stick to it.

Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, said that UK would contribute 1,000 troops and four RAF Typhoon jets for “air policing” in eastern Europe.

“Strong words must be backed up with firm action,” he said.

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