NATO allies reportedly plan to put four battalions in Poland and other Baltic countries to beef up its Russian border as Moscow steps up military activity.
According to The Wall Street Journal Friday, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work confirmed the overall size of the force – about 4,000 troops – and said the reinforcements were a response to the increased Russian activity around the nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Western officials told the paper that the U.S. will likely provide two of the battalions and Germany and Britain will likely supply the other two.
“The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right up against the borders, with a lot of troops,” Work said. “From our perspective, we could argue this is extraordinarily provocative behavior.”
Russia has repeatedly defended its increased military activity, saying they are a response to NATO’s buildup and aggressiveness toward Moscow.
NATO officials said they want to make sure the force is as multinational as possible and are asking smaller allied countries to make contributions to supporting forces. Officials said Germany’s role is particularly important because their Russian deterrence cements Berlin’s role as a major player in NATO.
The Journal notes that Germany’s move is unlikely to go over well. But Chancellor Angela Merkel and her top officials have been pushing to make a bigger play on international security matters. German officials are eyeing to lead a Lithuania-based battalion, but haven’t come to an official decision.
Work said the exact U.S. contribution to the battalions were still being discussed and could be drawn from separate brigades the U.S. has said it would rotate in and out of Europe.