The patch of the NATO AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control
Systems) aircraft is seen attached to the uniform of a
controller during a surveillance flight over Romania.
NATO says it will send more ships, planes and troops to
eastern Europe to reassure allies worried by Russia's
annexation of Crimea but shied away from new permanent bases in
the east as Poland wanted.
"You will see deployments at sea, in the air, on land to take
place immediately, that means within days," NATO
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news
conference after NATO ambassadors agreed the measures.
NATO has made clear it will not intervene militarily in
Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, despite Russia's
annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and a buildup of
Russian forces on the Ukrainian border.
It is focusing instead on boosting temporarily its presence
in eastern Europe in a drive to reassure allies, such as the
ex-Soviet Republics in the Baltics, that NATO would protect
them if they ever faced Russian aggression.
The United States and other allies have already sent more
planes and ships to the region but NATO ambassadors adopted
further steps on Wednesday that will maintain a bigger NATO
presence in eastern Europe until at least the end of this
Rasmussen said NATO fighter aircraft will fly more sorties
over the Baltic region, allied ships will be deployed to the
Baltic, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, and allied
military staff will be sent to improve NATO's preparedness
for training and exercises.
Rasmussen said the defence alliance would reinforce its
contingency plans to defend members. More steps to reinforce
defences would follow, if needed, in coming weeks and months.
Beyond that, NATO officials gave few details.
The measures were welcomed by the Baltic nations but are
likely to disappoint Poland which wants NATO forces based
permanently on its territory.
Russia says deployment of significant NATO forces in eastern
Europe, close to Russia, would violate the 1997 Founding Act,
a cooperation agreement between Moscow and the alliance.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said: "It
corresponds to the current situation in the region and takes
into account potential risks. I don't think this decision
will escalate the situation. Those who expected big bases,
maybe (they) will say it is not enough, but ... the response
is adequate to the current situation."
NATO's top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip
Breedlove, said the measures were "not a threat to Russia but
they are designed to send a clear message that NATO will
protect every ally."
Breedlove said he had tried unsuccessfully to contact General
Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia's
armed forces, on Wednesday to "talk him through" the measures
and would try again.
He said NATO had seen no significant change in the numbers of
Russian soldiers massed near Ukraine's border, which NATO
officials estimate at up to 40,000.
NATO diplomatic sources said the alliance had been careful
not to take steps that were too aggressive and could
jeopardise talks on Ukraine's future in Geneva on Thursday
between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European
Breedlove said he would deliver details of the units involved
and exercises to NATO headquarters by Thursday morning.
He said the reinforcement of ground forces would not be
limited to staff officers advising on exercises. "Multiple
nations have approached me even as late as today with offers
of ground forces," he said.
Asked what the Ukraine crisis meant for the numbers of U.S.
troops in Europe, which have fallen sharply since the end of
the Cold War, Breedlove, who also commands U.S. forces in
Europe, said: "It is important that we now take a pause and
determine what is appropriate for U.S. forces in Europe and I
am having those conversations with my capital."
Germany said it would send a command ship, the "Elbe", for a
mine defence unit in the Baltic Sea starting from the end of
May. It will also send up to six Eurofighter jets starting
from September to reinforce air policing over the Baltic