U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said NATO will consider increasing its military presence in the border regions of Eastern Europe to counter increased Russian aggression.
The announcement comes as the military alliance and Russia have seen a number of incidents, including the shooting down of a Russian jet by NATO member Turkey and Russian planes “buzzing” US warships.
Tensions between the two have risen dramatically since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula, and it has been widely reported that Russian military forces have been involved in Ukraine’s civil conflict.
Speaking at a U.S. military changing-of-the-guard ceremony on Tuesday, Carter said “We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia … But make no mistake, we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us.”
The U.S. also recently said state-of-the-art warplanes to Romania in an effort to reassure its allies that it is committed to their security.
An increased military presence was also announced in March with 4,200 rotating between Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The U.S. military stated this would allow for “rapid deployment” if necessary.
Article 5 of NATO’s Washington Treaty explicitly states that an attack against one member state is treated as an attack against all.
In regard to vague nuclear threats by Russia to its Baltic neighbours, Carter said “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling raises troubling questions about Russia’s leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution that nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to brandishing nuclear weapons.”
Despite the Cold War ending in 1991, tensions between western countries and Russia are at a head. The U.S. and European Union have imposed trade sanctions on Russia, and Russia is highly suspicious of NATO’s expansion toward its own borders.