NATO defence ministers to discuss sending ‘substantially more forces’ to its eastern borders

NATO defence ministers will discuss stepping up defences along their eastern front as Russia’s attacks inch closer to the alliance’s doorstep, the organisation’s secretary-general said Tuesday.

>> Victoria KimThe New York Times
Published : 16 March 2022, 06:16 AM
Updated : 16 March 2022, 06:16 AM

The ministers were set to meet Wednesday before next week’s extraordinary NATO summit, where President Joe Biden is scheduled to discuss how to respond to Russia’s invasion.

European allies are putting more pressure on the United States to take more direct action in addition to sanctions and military aid in face of relentless Russian attacks and widespread civilian suffering.

Ministers will discuss “concrete measures” to reinforce its eastern flank, on the ground and in the air and on the water, said Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, said in advance of the meeting of defence ministers. The Russian invasion and its coordination with Belarus “creates a new security reality” in Europe, he said.

“We need to reset NATO’s military posture for this new reality,” he said. “This could include substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance at high alertness and more pre-positioned equipment.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Antalya, Turkey March 11, 2022. Reuters

Russia attacked a Ukrainian military base Sunday near the Polish border, killing dozens and stoking fear that the war was approaching NATO’s eastern borders. Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s commitment that an attack on one ally will bring a response from the entire alliance. Ukraine is not a member of the alliance.

The ministers will be joined by the Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, who said on Twitter that he planned to urge them to help with air and missile defences and that discussions of a no-fly zone over the country was “still open.” NATO leaders have demurred on a no-fly zone, which could draw the alliance into a broader conflict with Russia.

Stoltenberg also urged members to step up defence spending to a minimum of 2% of gross domestic product, welcoming Germany’s surprise announcement to increase spending.

“We must invest more to protect peace and freedom and uphold our values,” he said.

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