NATO conducting biggest beef up of defenses since Cold War – alliance chief

Reuters / Kacper Pempel
NATO is implementing “the biggest reinforcement” of defense since Cold War times, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance is facing challenges from “the behavior of a more assertive” Russia.

“The NATO is facing a new security environment both caused by violence, turmoil, instability in the south, ISIL in Iraq, Syria, North Africa, but also caused by the behavior of a more assertive Russia, which has used force to change borders to annex Crimea and to destabilize eastern Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

He asserted that the alliance “has to respond” and they “are responding,” while meeting with the alliance’s soldiers in Poland on Thursday.

“We are doing so by implementing the biggest reinforcement of the collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”

Despite the comment, Stoltenberg stated that NATO“does not seek confrontation”with Moscow.“We continue to strive for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia. And we don't seek a new arms race.”

Units from NATO allied countries take part in the NATO Noble Jump 2015 exercises, part of testing and refinement of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in Swietoszow, Poland June 18, 2015. (Reuters / Anna Krasko / Agencja Gazeta)

READ MORE: Moscow will respond to NATO approaching Russian borders ‘accordingly’ – Putin

On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if NATO threatens Russian territory, Moscow will respond to the threat accordingly.

“If someone threatens our territories, it means that we will have to aim our armed forces accordingly at the territories from where the threat is coming. How else could it be? It is NATO that is approaching our borders; it’s not like we are moving anywhere,” Putin said.

READ MORE: US may send F-22 fighter jets to Europe to counter Russian ‘threat’

On Sunday it was reported that Poland and Lithuania were in talks with Washington about permanently stationing warehouses for US army equipment on their territories. Heavy weapons could be stored in the Baltic States, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

READ MORE: Poland, Lithuania discussing plans with Washington to harbor US army equipment

At least 49 vessels from 17 countries, involving 5,600 troops overall, are now taking part in the US-led BALTOPS exercises in the Baltic Sea. The training operation kicked off from the Polish port of Gdynia on June 5 and then moved out into the Baltic Sea. It will run until June 20.

This year’s exercise involves the participation of 61 aircraft, a submarine and an amphibious landing force of 700 troops.

NATO member states Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the UK and the US have dispatched their naval forces to take part in the drill.

The group has been joined by three partners outside the alliance – Finland and Sweden, which both have access to the Baltic Sea, as well as Georgia.

BALTOPS has been held annually since 1971. This year, NATO’s website stresses that the current, 43rd edition of the drill “is not held in response to any specific threat.”