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NATO leaders are set to approve major increases in the number of forces stationed in Eastern Europe during an upcoming emergency summit, according to NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, who indicated four new battle groups would likely be placed in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance on land, in the air and at sea,” Stoltenberg said during a press conference before the summit.
Stoltenberg added that he expects NATO allies to “agree to provide additional support including cybersecurity assistance, as well as equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.”
“[A]ny use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict and it would be a blatant violation of international law and it would have far-reaching consequences,” Stoltenberg noted, before calling for Russia to end its “nuclear saber-rattling.”
“Russia must understand that a nuclear war should never be fought and they can never win a nuclear war,” he said.
In addition, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, said that a “longer-term” stationing of troops in the area is being considered.
“NATO is in the process now of stepping back and thinking more about a medium and longer-term force presence in NATO territory on that eastern flank,” Smith said, arguing that these decisions send “a pretty clear message to Moscow.”
“Permanent stationing could be one solution, or persistent rotations as another option, that could be on the table. So at this point, what we need to do is have our military commanders give us the best advice that they can come to us with specific proposals and then as an alliance, look at what the security environment requires,” Smith added.
This news follows reports that, according to a senior U.S. defense official, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is still weighing the option of deploying more American troops to NATO’s eastern flank.
The official noted that some of Russia’s forces are even “suffering from frostbite,” adding that Ukrainian resistance forces were continuing to defend their territory in a “very nimble, agile way.”
“Because they lack the appropriate cold weather gear for the environment that they’re in,” the official explained. “In addition to food and fuel, even in terms of personal equipment for some of their troops, they’re having trouble.”
“What we’re starting to see are indications that they are now able and willing to take back territory that the Russians have taken,” the official added.