NATO will increase forces on its eastern flank, says chief – POLITICO

NATO is poised to bolster its eastern flank with a major new deployment of combat-ready troops in Central and Eastern Europe.

Before a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the alliance did not want a direct conflict with Russia.

Even so, the allies would likely commit to a significant increase in military forces in Eastern Europe over the long term, he said. In the short term, more chemical, nuclear or biological weapons protection equipment will be sent to support the Ukrainian armed forces, he added.

“I expect that leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s position in all areas, with a significant increase in our forces in the eastern part of the alliance: on land, in the air and at sea,” he said Secretary-General to reporters.

The hastily convened meeting comes amid growing concerns about Europe’s long-term security. The US and others have warned that Russia may be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons as the war in Ukraine drags on.

The Secretary-General, who stressed that NATO has already significantly increased its presence on the eastern flank, also noted that he expects leaders to task military commanders with reviewing the Alliance’s long-term options.

“There is a need to realign our deterrence and defense, and I expect this will result in a significant increase in our presence over the long term,” Stoltenberg said.

The next step in the NATO response is to deploy battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, Stoltenberg said. This increases the number of multinational combat units on the eastern edge of the alliance from four to eight.

NATO is under mounting pressure to step up its aid to Ukraine, although leaders have repeatedly insisted they cannot agree to Kiev’s top priority request to enforce a no-fly zone because the risk of a direct clash with Russian forces is too great.

Stoltenberg said he expected NATO leaders at the summit to further increase their contributions to Ukraine’s defense. The additional support will likely include “cybersecurity assistance” and “equipment to protect Ukraine from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats,” he said.

When they meet, leaders will also address China’s response to the war.

“I expect leaders will urge China to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council, not to support Russia’s war effort, and to join with the rest of the world in demanding an immediate, peaceful end to this war,” Stoltenberg said called. NATO will increase forces on its eastern flank, says chief - POLITICO

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