BRUSSELS, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- NATO will have an "interim spearhead" force in place by early 2015 to deter what its new Secretary General called Russia's "aggressive behavior."
Speaking at a press conference prior to a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels this week, Secretary General Jens Stollenberg said Russia continues to violate international law in providing pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine with goods and weapons. By 2016, he added, NATO will have a fully-equipped "spearhead" in place which could be deployed, to Baltic states as an example, to "deter and defend" in a crisis.
Air patrols and military exercises in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all NATO members, have increased since Russia's military involvement in Ukraine, and the United States has returned tanks and other military equipment to Europe, a reversal of previous plans.
The interim force will consist of several hundred troops from Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Stollenbeerg added NATO would not involve itself in the current Ukraine crisis, but member nations could send weapons and equipment on a bilateral basis.
Russian reaction was immediate, with Alexei Meshkow, Russian deputy foreign minister, telling the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass northern Europe was being destabilized by NATO's exercises and "transferring aircraft carriers able to carry nuclear weapons to the Baltic Sea."