Tuesday

18th Jun 2019

Nato doubles Russia-deterrent, considers nuclear drills

  • Nato says decisions due to Russian aggression. Russia says 'camouflage' for expansion (Photo: nato.int)

Nato is doubling the size of its Russia-deterrent force, opening new facilities in eastern Europe, and may resume Cold War-era nuclear arms drills, defence ministers said in Brussels on Thursday (8 October).

Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance's head, told press after the meeting: "This [deterrent] force will count up to 40,000 troops. That's twice as many troops as the current level".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said a "spearhead" portion of the force, which focuses on special operations, is ready to deploy anywhere on Nato territory "in as little as 48 hours".

He noted that it will use two new facilities, to be set up in Hungary and Slovakia, on top of "small" bases being created in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.

He also said the force, initially designed for eastern Europe, could be sent to Turkey if need be.

"We have seen increased turmoil, increased uncertainty, violence to the south of Nato borders in Turkey … we can be able to deploy forces [there] if needed".

The British Nato ambassador, Sir Adam Thomson, told media the alliance is also considering resumption of drills on how to "transition up the escalatory ladder" from conventional to nuclear warfare.

The UK's defence minister, Michael Fallon, noted: "We have to know how they fit together, nuclear and conventional".

Britain also announced that it's posting 100 soldiers to the Baltic States as part of Nato troop "rotations" on its eastern flank, and 25 specialists to Ukraine to help train its military.

Stoltenberg said the measures are due to "the aggressive actions of Russia which we have seen, for instance, in Ukraine, destabilising eastern Ukraine, annexing Crimea".

Thomson noted the nuclear rehearsals, which had been suspended after the Cold War, are due to Russia's mix of nuclear and conventional forces in its recent military exercises.

Caspian salvo

The Nato decisions also come amid Russia's bombing campaign in Syria, which saw Russian jets briefly enter Turkish airspace three times last week.

Ash Carter, the US defence chief, told press that Russia's salvo of cruise missiles, fired on Wednesday from the Caspian Sea, over Iran, into Syria, nearly hit a Nato drone.

"We have seen increasingly unprofessional activity on the part of Russian forces", he said.

"They have shot cruise missiles from a ship in the Caspian Sea without warning [Nato]. They have come within just a few miles of one of our unmanned aerial vehicles".

US officials briefed press that some of the missiles fell in Iran by mistake. But John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, when asked for an official comment, said: "I can't confirm it".

For their part, Russia and Iran denied the claim.

"All our cruise missiles hit their target", Igor Konashenkov, a Russian military spokesman, said. Iranian state media described the US claim as "psychological operations by the US against Moscow".

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, also said that Nato's increasing presence in eastern Europe will prompt "reciprocate steps in order to restore the necessary parity".

He added that the "alleged threat coming from Russia" is "the camouflage that Nato uses to cover up its plans to further expand toward our borders".

Same airspace

US secretary of state John Kerry also spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart on Thursday on creating new protocols to avoid an accidental clash in Syria, where US, French, and British jets are bombing Islamic State.

Douglas Lute, the US envoy to Nato, said on Wednesday: "What is especially troubling is Russian air activities which are taking place in the same airspace as the coalition air artillery. That is why military-to-military contact between Russia and the coalition is very important".

He said Russia has deployed a "battalion"-sized force of several hundred soldiers in Syria, including rocket artillery, tanks, air-defence systems, attack helicopters, and 10 naval vessels in the Mediterranean.

He said the deployment indicates Russia may launch a ground offensive against Syrian rebel and Islamist groups.

The US defence chief, Ash, added: "I suspect in the coming days Russia will suffer casualties in Syria".

Agenda

EU summit on migrants and Syria This WEEK

EU leaders will meet on 15 and 16 October to continue talks on how to tackle the refugees crisis. The situation in Syria, where Russia is intervening, will be the new emergency issue.

Nato invites Montenegro to start accession talks

A Nato that includes Montenegro would cover almost the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. The extended hand to Montenegro can be expected to trigger sharp reactions from Russia.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  2. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  3. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  4. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini
  5. EU blames Sudan junta for killings and rapes
  6. Report: EU may suspend Turkey customs union talks
  7. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July
  8. Austria's Strache will not take up EU parliament seat

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  2. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  3. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  4. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  5. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  6. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  7. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  8. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us