NATO moving thousands of troops amid standoff with Russia

2016-10-28 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The NATO military alliance has finalized plans to deploy thousands of troops and military equipment to the Baltics and Poland in response to what it views as an increasingly aggressive and unpredictable Russia.

After two days of talks, NATO defense ministers agreed to send as many as 4,000 troops and equipment into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland near Russia's borders, despite warnings by experts that it could add to international tensions. 

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

The announcement came shortly after Russia moved battleships toward the Mediterranean and the Baltic Seas, shifted nuclear-capable missile-launchers into its Kaliningrad enclave neighboring Poland and continued flying bombers down the western European coast. 

It underscored the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War over Russia's role in the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg denied that the alliance is seeking a new Cold War with Russia, but said it had no other choice than to react to Russia's military actions. "It is important and necessary that NATO responds and that we are delivering a response when we see the substantial and significant military buildup of Russia over a long period of time,” he said. 

US INVOLVED

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter also said that the United States will boost its presence in Europe with a brigade - usually some 1,500-3,000 troops - being deployed to Poland in February, among other contributions. 

And NATO wants to boost its presence in the south-east, especially in Bulgaria and Romania, but officials warn it could be delayed by Turkey, following the coup attempt, as Ankara is reportedly reluctant to cooperate with these countries. 

Yet, Carter made clear that the brigade will take part in military exercises in not only the Baltics but also end units from the force to Bulgaria and Romania. 

Experts are concerned. Brooks Tigner of Jane’s Defence Weekly says NATO's deployment, especially near Russia's borders, could lead to new friction. "If there was a conflict and Russian forces kill British or American or German or Canadian or Dutch or whatever troops. That would off course set off immediate diplomatic crisis,” he said. 

Under Article 5 of the NATO treaty an attack on one member state is viewed on an attack on all, which could prompt a wider conflict between the West and Russia.      

Little dialogue has taken place between Moscow and the world's biggest military alliance. Their main forum for airing disagreements - the NATO-Russia Council - has only met twice this year as allies do not seem to share a common vision of what Russia is trying to tell them or how to respond.

(from Vatican Radio)