US President Joe Biden pledged more American troops, warplanes and warships for Europe yesterday as Nato agreed the biggest strengthening of its deterrents since the Cold War in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden’s commitment at the Madrid summit “to defend every inch of allied territory” came as the US-led military alliance also set in motion a new plan to reinforce the Baltic states and Poland against any future Russian attack.
With more German, British and other allied troops to be on alert to deploy eastward, the United States is also adding to the 100,000 personnel already in Europe by sending more warships to Spain, planes to Britain, pre-positioned weapons to the Baltics and more soldiers to Romania.
“We mean it when we say an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said.
However, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi played down a threat of a near-term armed confrontation between Nato and Russia. “There is no risk of a military escalation. We must be ready, but there is no risk,” he said.
The Baltics originally sought permanent Nato bases and as much as a tenfold increase to Nato’s troop presence from around 5,000 multinational soldiers prior to the Ukraine invasion, as well as adding air and maritime defences.
What Nato agreed yesterday falls short of that, but it means more allied troops in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, more equipment, weapons and ammunition sent to the region, and setting up a system of rapid reinforcements.
Nato leaders agreed to move towards putting more than 300,000 troops at higher readiness.
In the past, the alliance relied on far fewer troops — some 40,000 — to be first in line to respond to any Russian attack or other crises.
“President (Vladimir) Putin’s war against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and has created the biggest security crisis in Europe since the Second World War,” Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “Nato has responded with strength and unity.” The US will also create a new permanent army headquarters in Poland, which was immediately welcomed by Polish President Andrzej Duda, as Warsaw long sought a permanent US military base on its soil. “It is a fact that strengthens our safety a lot ... in the difficult situation which we are in,” Duda said.
As Nato also agreed a long-term military and financial aid package for Ukraine, Ukrainian refugees gathered in central Madrid to call for more arms for their nation, which is now facing a war of attrition against superior Russian artillery in the east of the country.
In addition, Nato’s 30 leaders invited Finland and Sweden into the alliance, a decision that once ratified would end decades of Nordic neutrality by putting the two countries under the US’ nuclear umbrella.
“The significance of this really can’t be overstated,” Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters. “We’re seeing the expansion of the alliance, which is exactly the opposite of what Putin wanted. He wanted less Nato, he’s getting more.”
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