The UK will deploy hundreds of troops in response to growing concerns over Russia’s presence on its border with the Baltic states, David Cameron is set to announce.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon says 650 troops will be sent to eastern Europe to help NATO in its mission to “deter Russia from any further aggression”.
A battalion of 500 soldiers will be sent to Estonia while 150 troops will be based in Poland, Mr Fallon confirmed, with the UK assuming leadership of NATO’s standby force early next year.
He continued: “[Eastern NATO countries] feel enormous pressure from Russia doing large exercises on the border, flying over their airspace and so on.
“I think [President Putin] is flexing his muscles. He wants Russia to be treated as the world power it used to be and that’s why an alliance like NATO is very, very important, that we stand together.”
Mr Fallon added that the UK had a duty to “reassure those countries” of continuing Nato support.
Nato has reiterated its commitment to install four new battalions in eastern Europe, a promise made following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 which caused international outrage.
At a summit in Warsaw, the prime minister said the UK’s involvement is “yet another example of the UK leading in NATO”, as Britain attempts to reassert its position on the world stage following the referendum vote to leave the European Union.
Meanwhile NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg re-emphasized the need for the organization “to respond” to Russia’s use of force against countries on its borders.
Meanwhile at the end of June, British personnel joined NATO’s largest military drill in Ukraine near the Polish border, an exercise designed to fine-tune joint combat operations.
The drills saw 2,000 soldiers, helicopter gunships and armored fighting vehicles take part in a series of staged war games, simulating battle conditions.
Meanwhile on Thursday German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s plans for a greater troop presence near the Russian border as a necessary deterrence measure.
Chancellor Merkel described NATO’s plans for four battalions as a “deeply defensive concept” to warn Russia of the organization’s commitment to protecting its nations.
On Wednesday, it was reported Russia was seen assembling military personnel at crucial bases near Kaliningrad, a crucial outpost between Poland and Lithuania, raising fears of a potential face-off with NATO troops in the near future.