MUENSTER, Germany, June 22 (UPI) -- The United States will provide support, including weaponry, to a NATO team that could deploy within two to seven days in response to threats in Europe and Asia, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday.
Carter said the United States will send surveillance equipment, special-operations forces, artillery, and air- and sea-based weaponry to the NATO response team known as Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). The team is capable of responding to crises in a matter of days, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"At a time when some seek to divide us and take us backward, we are moving forward together, with new capabilities, like the VJTF, and a new playbook to confront challenges in the South, from the East, and around the world," said Carter, who is visiting locations throughout Europe to respond to aggression from Russia.
Carter said the U.S. assistance to the team will not include an increase in U.S. troops sent to Europe. It's likely any additional U.S. troops sent to support VJTF would be reassigned from other forces within Europe.
The boost to VJTF, while not currently deployed, could be seen as a direct response to an increase in Russian troops in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region. Russian has denied it has sent more troops to the area.
Earlier Monday, the European Union announced an extension of sanctions against Russia through the end of January 2016 in an effort to force Russia to comply with the Minsk cease-fire agreement.
"We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia," Carter said Monday in German. "We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order and the positive future it affords us all. We will stand up to Russia's actions and their attempts to re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence."
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the rapid-response team could reach 40,000 troops, up from 4,000 in 2014.
"NATO defense ministers ... [will] make a decision to further increase the strength and capacity of the 13,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) to 30,000 or 40,000 troops," he said Monday.
The troops would be stationed at six headquarters in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
"This nuclear saber-rattling of Russia is unjustified. It's destabilizing and it's dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it's also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces," Stoltenberg said.
Prior to Carter's announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would further develop the strategic nuclear armed forces in response to the possibility the United States would reinforce NATO supplies and weaponry, RT reported.