Back to the future: 1,000-strong NATO battalions for Lithuania, Baltic States

NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels today will discuss a new plan to reinforce the Baltics, central and southern Europe against a destabilising “hybrid” attack or full-blown occupation by Russian forces, according to The Telegraph newspaper.

It reports that the plan could involve up to a battalion of 500-1,000 troops being sent to each of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

“The key thing for credible deterrence on land is that major allies should have a presence in this,” a NATO source told the Telegraph.

“So to be blunt, so that Russia knows that if it tries something on in a Baltic republic or in Poland or Romania, Bulgaria, it very quickly comes up against British or American or German troops.”

The battalions are likely to include large numbers of American, British and German troops, to make clear to Russia that any Ukraine-style “intervention” will trigger a strong response from the Western NATO powers, the newspaper said.

The units that would be deployed on rotation, are likely to include highly-mobile special forces units armed with surface-to-air missiles, backed up by ground-attack aeroplanes and helicopters.

It is part of a NATO plan that includes boosting intelligence capabilities, making preparations to rapidly reinforce frontline units from Western Europe in case of an emergency, and to provide training to make vulnerable states better able to defend themselves.

The British ambassador to NATO, Adam Thomson told the Telegraph that it was a “back to the future” approach for NATO – a return to its founding principle of collective defence “but with a modern twist”.

“This is NATO taking a more muscular approach than it has done since the Cold War to enhance its forward presence to the east, and as necessary to the south, but only doing as much as is strictly necessary,” he said.

“Ministers will, I think, agree a highly innovative approach that is completely different from the Cold War. This is NATO assuring itself it can do credibly what it was created to do and has a treaty obligation to do, which is to defend its members.”

“Deterrence is NATO’s core business. It is about being strong enough not ever to have to fight, so you can go about your daily lives without worrying about defence matters.”

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