NATO TO BOLSTER EASTERN EUROPE AGAINST RUSSIA

BBC News on February 5, 2015, reported that Nato is set to announce details of a plan to bolster the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe in response to continued fighting in Ukraine. Excerpts below:

The bloc’s chief says it will be the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence since the end of the Cold War.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry is to hold talks in Kiev as the US considers whether to send weapons to help Ukraine fight pro-Russian rebels.

The US has so far only provided “non-lethal” assistance to Ukraine.

Nato defence ministers meeting in Brussels will seek to reassure the alliance’s member nations in Eastern Europe by boosting its forces there.

A rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 is expected to be announced, with its lead units able to deploy at two days’ notice.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has said the bloc faces a “fundamental change” to its security environment because of Russian aggression.

Speaking as ministers arrived in Brussels, he said: “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.

“I very much underline that this is something we do because we have to adapt our forces when we see that the world is changing.”

Nato will also reveal plans for a network of small command centres in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The move is being seen as a potential deterrent against any Russian threat to the Baltic states or other bloc members should the crisis in Ukraine spin out of control.

Nato’s wider actions – it also plans to open a training centre in Georgia and support for the reform of Ukraine’s military – all ring alarm bells in Moscow.

Tensions could get worse still if the US or other Nato allies move to arm the Ukrainian military.

On February 5, Mr Kerry will meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Ukraine’s capital.

The issue of weapons deliveries to Ukraine – and other avenues of US assistance – is expected to be one of the main items on the agenda.

The possible new US Secretary of Defense, Carter, spoke positively in the Senate on the possibility of moving arms supplies to the Ukrainians.

“I’m very much inclined in that direction, mister chairman, because I think we need to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves,” he said when asked by Senator John McCain if he supported delivering “defensive weapons” to Ukraine.

“The nature of those arms, I can’t say right now,” he added.

US President Barack Obama is said to be reconsidering his position, accusing Russia of escalating the conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks, leaving a September ceasefire in tatters.

Earlier this week, a group of former senior US officials and officers urged a major increase in military assistance, including providing light-armour missiles designed to take out tanks and armoured vehicles.

And on February 2, a group of US senators called on President Obama and Nato “to rapidly increase military assistance to Ukraine to defend its sovereign borders against escalating Russian aggression”.

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