In a first, NATO okays special combat force to counter Russian threat
The plan will enable NATO to meet 'any threats from wherever they come', Stoltenberg said.
Berlin: For the first time, NATO has approved a special combat force to protect the alliance against the threat posed by Russia in wake of its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
Foreign ministers of the 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) gave their go-ahead for the stationing of Rapid Deployment Force in Europe since the end of the cold war at a meeting in Brussels yesterday.
The interim "Spearhead Force" would be operational early next year and it will be comprised of troops from Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.
Germany has expressed its readiness to take over the leadership of the force together with the German-Dutch corps based in Munster and to work for strengthening the operational readiness of NATO, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg spoke of the agreement reached by the foreign ministers as "the biggest increase in our collective defence since the end of the cold war".
"The proposed new force is part of the NATO’s 'Readiness Action Plan', which was agreed at the NATO summit in Wales in response to the changed security situation in Europe, including Russia's aggressive actions in and around Ukraine," he said in a statement.
The plan will enable NATO to meet "any threats from wherever they come", Stoltenberg said.
"Its implementation has already begun through an increased presence in the air, at sea and on the ground in the eastern part of our alliance. We are going to implement the Readiness Action Plan on time and in full," the official said.
The foreign ministers also agreed to maintain a continuous NATO presence in the eastern part of the alliance through next year, he said.
NATO defence ministers will decide on the size of the Spearhead Force and its design in February with the aim of making it operational in 2016, the general secretary said.
It could be deployed within a few days. The interim force based in Germany will "provide the quick reaction capability we need straight away," he said.
The defence ministers said in a joint statement that work on other measures envisaged in the Readiness Action Plan, including the establishment of an appropriate multinational command and control presence on the territories of the NATO’s eastern allies is advancing rapidly.
In a preview of the discussions, Blinken said, "We won't trade shots in arms for political favours. This is about saving lives."
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