While denying that NATO is being drawn into an arms race with Russia, the alliance’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, said it will be upgrading its military capabilities.
According to the Associated Press, Stoltenberg spoke to reporters as defense ministers of NATO countries met in Brussels. The meeting ended with a decision to increase the manpower of the Response Force by up to 27,000 troops.
The Response Force is the alliance’s quickly-deployable force, whose purpose is to respond quickly to any emerging crisis.
“We want to keep our nations safe,” Stoltenberg said. “And faced with many challenges from many directions, we need to be prepared.”
The Ukraine crisis, which began in 2013 when massive Ukrainian protests forced pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych out of office and later developed into violent clashes between Western-backed Ukrainian forces and Russian and pro-Russian forces, has sparked severe tensions between the West and Russia. The violence has resulted in thousands of deaths on both sides.
Both Russia and NATO have been blaming each other for instigating the other into an arms race. According to Reuters, Stoltenberg said Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis has forced the alliance to improve its capabilities. Moscow has also blamed the U.S. and its allies’ military activity near its borders for forcing it into an arms race.
The United States has been building up its military presence in eastern European NATO countries. Russia Today recently reported that Poland and Lithuania held talks with Washington on June 14 to host American heavy military equipment including tanks. Reuters said U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter confirmed that, in addition to those countries, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and Romania have also agreed to host American heavy equipment.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said 250 heavy military equipment will be spread across eastern European NATO member states.
Russia has warned that it will retaliate if the US really does station tanks and artillery near its borders. According to Reuters, Russia has threatened to step up its military presence along its Western border and in Belarus.
In another response to NATO military buildup near its borders, Russia has also made a recent and more serious announcement in the ongoing arms race. It announced the entry of more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) into military service, as the BBC has reported.
Euronews says NATO has denounced the announcement, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling it a “nuclear sabre-rattling” that is “destabilizing and dangerous.”
How far will both sides go with this arms race along Russia’s borders?
[Image by U.S. Army Europe Images]