NATO ministers agree to draft plans to beef up alliance’s eastern flank

Defense ministers call on Russia to immediately reverse massive military buildup in and around Ukraine

Agnes Szucs  | 16.02.2022 - Update : 17.02.2022
NATO ministers agree to draft plans to beef up alliance’s eastern flank


NATO defense ministers agreed on Wednesday to develop plans to beef up NATO’s position on the alliance’s eastern flank amid a growing Russian threat.

The agreement came at a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss top security issues, including the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as Chinese nuclear proliferation.

In a statement issued after day one of their meeting, the allies expressed “grave” concerns over “the large-scale, unprovoked and unjustified Russian military build-up in and around Ukraine and in Belarus.”

They called on Russia to engage in talks and “to immediately reverse its build-up and withdraw its forces from Ukraine” in line with its international obligations.

The defense chiefs also stated that Russian actions pose “a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security” and that they are prepared to “further strengthen our defensive and deterrent posture.”

They gave the green light to develop options on the new deployments, which includes “establishing new NATO battle groups in central-eastern and southeastern Europe," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference following the meeting.

He said that the defense ministers welcomed Romania’s offer to host and France’s pledge to lead a new battle group, adding that “our military commanders will now work on the details and report back within weeks.”

“There is a strong will, there is a strong readiness, but the final decision has not yet been made,” he stressed.

'Intent to intimidate'

He explained that it is necessary to reconsider NATO's posture on the eastern flank even if Russia decides to de-escalate the conflict with Ukraine.

With its buildup around Ukraine, Russia concentrated the biggest combat-ready army since the end of the Cold War in order to “try to intimidate other countries in Europe, to generate respect or to accept the Russian demands,” he added.

With the intention to set a “new norm,” Russia also proposed a legally binding treaty that would violate the fundamental principles of European security and stability, Stoltenberg stressed, referring to Russia’s proposals last month that NATO rejected.

In its response, NATO rejected Russian demands that NATO withdraw troops and weapons from eastern Europe and halt the transatlantic integration of Ukraine, instead inviting Russia to continue talks on arms control and military transparency in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council.

The US, with its European allies, has been warning since last November that Russia was preparing for aggression against Ukraine after having amassed over 100,000 troops and heavy equipment in and around its neighbor.

Denying it is preparing to invade, Russia has accused Western countries of undermining its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.

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