Thousands of troops and military equipment are being sent to Poland, Baltic countries, Romania and Bulgaria, as a part of the largest NATO built-up in Europe since the Cold War era.
2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, followed by the Russian annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, sparked tensions between the West and Russia.
The West has been accusing Russia of violating international law, military aggression against Ukraine and threatening the existing European order. Countries such as Poland and Lithuania have been the most ardent in their criticism against Russia, calling for an increased NATO military presence in their countries, as a response to the perceived Russian aggression.
On the other hand, the Kremlin accused the West – mainly the US and the EU, in organizing a coup d’etat in Ukraine, supporting an anti-Russian regime in Kiev and engaging in anti-Russian propaganda. Moscow sees NATO military build-up in Eastern Europe as a direct threat to its national security.
NATO has deployed more than 7,000 troops in countries bordering Russia. Soldiers from the UK, US, Canada and Germany are stationed in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
NATO forces are supported by local armies; in Poland, a US-led NATO mission numbers around 4,000 troops, which is supported by the Romanian army.
Tanks and heavy armoured vehicles, Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin howitzers, are also in situ and British Typhoon jets from RAF Conningsby will be deployed to Romania this summer to contribute to Nato’s Southern Air Policing mission.
According to a map produced for The Independent by Statista, the US remains by far, the largest military spender within NATO.
In 2016, the US NATO military expenditure was $66.41 billion, followed by the UK, with $6.03 billion, and France, $4.36 billion.
The US has also continued to sent new troops and material to various countries across Eastern Europe, while defense budgets in Baltic countries have seen a significant increase.
The situation in Ukraine still remains highly volatile; armed clashes between the regime forces and pro-Russian rebels in the East are common. Only during the last week, there has been a significant increase in fighting along the front line in the areas held by the rebels.
Both sides have accused the other of violating the Minsk II agreement, by which the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany agreed to implement measures aimed at preventing the escalation of the conflict in the Donbass.
While the agreement has mostly halted large-scale military operations in Ukraine, the potential for escalation remains high.
The recent NATO military build-up in Eastern Europe has caused more tensions with Russia, which called the recent deployments as ‘truly aggressive’.
Source: The Independent
Image: The Times of Japan