30 January 2015

NATO units set for Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria

Associated Press & RFE/RL: 30. January 2015

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks to the media about the Ukraine crisis at NATO headquarter in Brussels on Jan. 26, 2015.

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO said Friday it will deploy units in six eastern European nations to help coordinate a spearhead force set up in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the units in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania will be the first of their kind there.
Defense ministers from the 28-nation military alliance will discuss the full force, which can react quickly to any hotspots in Europe, when they meet on Feb. 5.

Stoltenberg said countries responsible for providing the several thousand troops should be known next week.
The forward units will comprise a few dozen troops only. They will plan and organize military exercises, and provide command and control for any reinforcements the force might require.
"They're going to plan, they're going to organize exercises, to provide ... some key command elements for reinforcements," Stoltenberg said.

NATO forces conducted some 200 military exercises in 2014 and Stoltenberg, speaking at his regular monthly press conference, vowed that this would continue as the Alliance adapts to the increased presence of Russian war planes in European skies. NATO intercepted more than 400 Russian aircraft last year.

On Thursday, British fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers which did not make contact with British air traffic control.
Stoltenberg also warned that Russia has continued to build up its military, as European NATO allies cut budgets again last year. The alliance has been on a drive to spend more efficiently and to pool and share resources but even this, he said, would not be sustainable.
"It is not possible to get more out of less indefinitely. That is the reason why we have to stop the cuts and gradually start to increase defense spending as our economies grow," he said.
"Despite the economic crisis, despite the financial problems they are facing, Russia now is still giving priority to defense spending."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance must prepare for further challenges after a "black year" of Russian intervention in Ukraine and terror attacks on Europe's streets.
Stoltenberg, who unveiled NATO's 2014 annual report in Brussels, said he would soon reveal details of which countries would take part in a so-called "spearhead" quick reaction force, which the alliance's leaders agreed on at a summit in September.

He said the force would help cope with a "fundamentally changed" security environment but urged the 28 member states to keep their commitments to boost defense spending to the equivalent of 2 percent of annual economic output within 10 years.
"2014 was not a good year for European security. In fact it was a black year," said Stoltenberg.
He said Russia's interference in Ukraine was a key problem for European security.

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