NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday the Western alliance will deploy four new battle groups across Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO already has battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains with major increases of forces in the eastern part of the alliance, on land, in the air, and at sea. The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia,” Stoltenberg told journalists in Brussels.
NATO's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance will send four new 'battle groups' to its eastern member states, in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. #UkraineRussia pic.twitter.com/hWNF11MzmH
— euronews (@euronews) March 23, 2022
“This means that we will have eight multinational NATO battle groups all along the Eastern flank from the Baltic to the Black Sea,” Stoltenberg said ahead of an extraordinary NATO summit scheduled for March 24 that will also be attended by U.S. President Joe Biden.
“We face a new reality for our security, so we must reset our deterrence and defense for the longer term,” he said.
NATO has readied 140,000 troops since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, NATO has readied 140,000 troops in the region and mobilized a colossal war chest of advanced military equipment. Of the approximately 140,000 troops, the United States has provided the lion’s share with 100,000 soldiers.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said Wednesday that a permanent stationing of U.S. and NATO troops is currently on the table.
“NATO is in the process now of stepping back and thinking more about a medium and longer-term force presence in NATO territory on that eastern flank,” Smith said, adding that the new deployments to the region send “a pretty clear message to Moscow.”
“Permanent stationing could be one solution, or persistent rotations as another option, that could be on the table. So at this point, what we need to do is have our military commanders give us the best advice that they can come to us with specific proposals and then as an alliance, look at what the security environment requires,” Smith said.
Russia has “strengthened NATO”
Last week Stoltenberg declared that NATO member states would expand their defenses across land, air, sea, and space in response to the “new reality for our security.”
“President Putin’s aim was to undermine NATO. What he’s done is to strengthen NATO. … He’s getting more NATO on (Russia’s) borders.”
When asked whether the alliance had changed its stance on fast-tracking Ukraine’s application, the NATO chief said it had not. “It’s up to them whether they decide to apply to NATO,” Stoltenberg continued, adding that the application would then be subject to a vote by member states. “It’s not for Russia to try to veto such a process,” he pointed out.