Canadian Forces CF-18 fighter jets take part in military
exercises near Keflavik, Iceland. Canada has offered six of
the jets as part of a NATO plan to enhance security in
eastern European allies, in response to the Ukraine crisis.
REUTERS/Cpl Pierre Habib/Canadian Armed Forces
NATO is sending part of its naval rapid reaction force to
the Baltic Sea as part of a drive to step up the defence of
eastern European allies in response to the crisis in Ukraine,
the military alliance says.
Separately, Canada said it had offered six CF-18 fighter
planes as its contribution to NATO efforts to beef up its
presence in eastern Europe and reassure nervous allies there
that NATO would protect them in the event of any Russian
NATO, the 28-member alliance dominated by the United States,
has made clear it does not plan to get involved militarily in
Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
But it announced plans on Wednesday to send more ships,
planes and troops to eastern Europe to reassure members of
the alliance, particularly the ex-Soviet republics in the
Baltics, that are worried by Russia's annexation of Ukraine's
NATO gave only a broad outline of its plans on Wednesday but
some details began to emerge on Thursday.
A multinational group of five small ships - four minesweepers
and a support vessel - will be sent to the Baltic Sea soon
and will stay "for the foreseeable future", a spokesman for
NATO's Maritime Command said.
The ships from Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Estonia
make up one of four NATO naval groups that the alliance has
available as an immediate reaction force.
The NATO "mine counter measures" group had been inactive
since January but was called back to duty last week by U.S.
Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO's top military
"During this period of tension, we felt it appropriate to
deploy (the group) to the Baltic Sea as part of a broad
package of actions by NATO's maritime, air, and ground
forces," Breedlove said in a statement.
The ships, now assembling in the German port of Kiel, will
visit Baltic ports and take part in a previously scheduled
exercise next month to hunt for mines and torpedoes from both
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his country was
offering six Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter aircraft
to the NATO effort and up to 20 staff officers to assist with
"Canada continues to strongly condemn Russia's illegal
occupation of Ukraine and its ongoing aggressive military
provocation. Along with our NATO allies, we recognise the
need to enhance security and stability in Central and Eastern
Europe," Harper said in a statement.
NATO has already said it will triple its usual number of
fighter jets patrolling over the Baltics from next month as
part of steps to beef up its eastern European defences.
The United States, Britain, Denmark, France and Germany are
among NATO allies that have promised extra fighters to patrol
the skies over the Baltic countries - which do not have
fighters of their own - or elsewhere in eastern Europe.
Various allies have also offered extra ships, refuelling
planes and AWACS reconnaissance aircraft to the NATO effort.
NATO plans to boost its defences through a series of
temporary deployments of military forces and exercises but
has so far shied away from setting up new permanent bases in
the east as Poland wanted.
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.