NATO announces new plan
NATO is weighing options to reinforce its “deterrence and defense,” including the creation of new battle groups in eastern Europe, the bloc’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. Stoltenberg, who was speaking after a meeting of the organisation's defense ministers, also lamented that “using force” is now “the new normal in Europe.”
“Ministers decided to develop options for further strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense,” Stoltenberg said, adding that it includes them mulling over “establishing new NATO battlegroups in central and eastern, south-eastern Europe.”
France has already volunteered to “lead such a battlegroup in Romania,” the Secretary General revealed. “Our military commanders will now work on the details and report back within weeks,” Stoltenberg added.
The official blamed the need for further military buildup in the bloc’s eastern flank on Russia’s actions. The ongoing standoff between Moscow and the West centered around Ukraine “has already demonstrated we face a crisis in European security,” he claimed.
“Moscow has made it clear that it is prepared to contest the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decades. And to do so by using force,” Stoltenberg claimed. “I regret to say that this is the new normal in Europe.”
The ministerial meeting comes a day after Moscow said it began returning its military units to their bases after large-scale joint exercises in Belarus in areas close to the Ukrainian border. The withdrawal announcement has been met with skepticism in the West, however, with Stoltenberg stating earlier in the day that Russia still “retains the capability of a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine without any warning time.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Washington has not observed any “meaningful pullback,” with Russian troops continuing to “mass” on Ukraine’s frontier.
Over the past few months, top Western officials and media outlets have repeatedly accused Russia of harboring plans to attack Ukraine, painting moves of Russian troops in the relative vicinity of the border as preparations for the ‘invasion’. Moscow has consistently denied the allegations, pointing out it has been in its full right to move its military units wherever it pleases within its own territory.