NATO leaders are seeking to approve a massive increase in military forces stationed in Eastern Europe amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, which borders several NATO countries.
According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg indicated that four new battle groups will be established in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.
“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance on land, in the air and at sea,” said Stoltenberg at a press conference ahead of the summit.
Stoltenberg said that he expects NATO-allied countries to “agree to provide additional support including cybersecurity assistance, as well as equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats,” Fox News reported.
The troop build-up in Eastern Europe comes as NATO is growing increasingly concerned that Belarusian troops are mounting at the border to join Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarus’ entry into the conflict could have broader implications if the troops enter through western Ukraine, which could see fighting unintentionally spill over the border into Poland, which is part of NATO.
Should fighting spill over into NATO territory, it would immediately trigger Article 5 which would prompt every single member of the NATO military alliance to consider it an act of war against them.
“[A]ny use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict and it would be a blatant violation of international law and it would have far-reaching consequences,” Stoltenberg added, before demanding that Russia end its “nuclear saber-rattling.”
“Russia must understand that a nuclear war should never be fought and they can never win a nuclear war,” he said.
In addition to increasing the presence of NATO troops on the eastern flank, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, said that the organization is considering a “longer-term” stationing of military forces in the area.
“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 stated, arguing that such a move would 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.