The Baltic nations, rattled by Russian moves in Ukraine, will ask NATO to permanently station troops in their countries. A Lithuanian army spokesman said that the request would be put in a letter to the Supreme NATO Allied Commander Europe, and would be for at least a brigade—3,000 to 5,000 troops—to be put in each country. The U.S. currently keeps 150 troops stationed in each of the Baltics and Poland, a force which is bolstered by similar-sized contingents from other NATO allies. No decisions on further deployments are expected before the 2016 summit in Warsaw, and several allies are said to still be concerned that such a move would be too provocative to Russia. Reuters:
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a press conference at the end of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Turkey, said NATO had increased its air policing, as well as naval and ground presence, in the region.
“When we receive the letter, we will go carefully through the letter and assess the different proposals … but I think it is a bit too early to comment on details and specifics.”
The U.S. and NATO have of course upped the size and frequency of military drills in Eastern Europe since the seizure of Crimea. And last year’s summit in Wales did see NATO making gestures towards a rapid reaction force, though still failing to make any stronger commitments to permanently stationing troops in threatened member states.
But the tone within the alliance appears to be sharpening. “This discussion of nukes and the possibility of moving nukes into certain areas or employing nukes if something had not gone correctly in Crimea and all these other things, which have been put out there—this is not responsible language from a nuclear nation,” NATO’s military chief General Philip Breedlove said at a summit in Turkey today. Beyond just ground troop placement, diplomats also say Russia’s behavior is prompting a rethink of NATO’s planning on deterrence and nuclear doctrine.