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Nato eyes deployment of French forces to Romania

  • Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (Photo: nato.int)
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Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, said Wednesday (16 February) that French soldiers could be sent to Romania amid what he said were signs that Russia is continuing to prepare for conflict in Ukraine.

Nato sent deterrence forces to the Baltic region and Poland after Russia's first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Those forces remain in place and are comprised of four multinational battalions with about 1,200 soldiers each that are meant to act as a tripwire for larger Nato forces in the event of Russian aggression.

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The proposed French-led battlegroup in Romania "will not necessarily be exactly the same as the battlegroups we have in the Baltic countries, but it's based on some of the same concept," Stoltenberg told a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday after meeting defence ministers.

Nato has made clear it would not take military action to defend Ukraine. But Russia's sabre-rattling was "also threatening Nato allies," said Stoltenberg. Russia recently issued "ultimatums" to Nato states to withdraw forces from eastern Europe for instance, he said.

Even if Russia walked back from its threat to Ukraine, Nato was still going to have to make "some more longer term adjustments of our posture in the East," Stoltenberg said.

Russia had already "used force, the biggest concentration of combat forces since the end of the Cold War, to underpin [their demands] and to try to intimidate other countries in Europe," he said in reference to Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border.

Russia has said it was withdrawing some troops from around Ukraine and was open to further talks with the West.

But Stoltenberg said open-source images from commercial satellites as well as Nato intelligence showed the opposite.

"What we see on the ground is no withdrawal of troops and forces [and] equipment but actually what we see is that Russian troops are moving into position," said Stoltenberg. "And we saw the cyber attack," he said, referring to the strike on the Ukrainian defence ministry and two Ukrainian banks on Tuesday.

"These are the kinds of actions and measures that we expect will come in advance of a bigger military intervention into Ukraine," he added.

As for the deployment of the French troops to Romania, Stoltenberg did not offer further details. "Our military commanders will now work on the details and report back within weeks," he said.

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