By Debbie Gregory.
Last week, NATO Defense Ministers wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels, which marked progress in creating four NATO battalions in the Baltic States and Poland.
“Over the past two days, we assessed the various challenges confronting NATO,” said Secretary General Stoltenberg. “We took stock of our progress since the Warsaw Summit – and we mapped out the road ahead. We are as united as ever in our determination to protect our citizens.”
In the face of perceived Russian provocation, the United Kingdom has deployed hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe as NATO continues to make its presence known.
In 2017, the UK plans to send Royal Air Force Typhoon jets to Romania for up to four months. This is the largest buildup of troops in the region since the Cold War.
The latest troop deployment comes at a time of fear over the security of Baltic states such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which have significant Russian-speaking minorities like Ukraine and concerns that they could suffer a similar fate to Crimea’s.
The United States and the UK are both set to send troops to Poland next year in a show of strength and support of their NATO ally. NATO has also said that Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia will contribute to a Canadian-led battalion in Latvia.
Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway will join a German-led battalion in Lithuania, while Denmark and France will contribute to the UK-led battalion in Estonia. Romania and the UK will join the US-led battalion in Poland.
In February, the US Department of Defense announced it was spending $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative to deter Russian aggression against NATO allies.
The initiative will include putting equipment in place in the Baltic states, Poland and Central Europe.
A limited rotational force of 330 U.S. Marines will be deployed to Norway, beginning in January. They will be stationed at the Vaernes military base, according to a statement from the Norwegian Defense Ministry.
Earlier this year, members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade trained in Norway alongside troops from other NATO countries in Exercise Cold Response.
Norway shares a 196-kilometer (122-mile) border with Russia.