NATO is to deploy its forces at new bases in eastern Europe, in response to the Ukraine crisis, and in an attempt to deter Vladimir Putin from causing further trouble, according to its secretary general. This stance, however, seems to contradict Germany’s position that the 1997 NATO-Russia Act, which prohibits such deployments, should remain valid.
Quoted by The Guardian, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the organisations's summit in Cardiff on 4-5 September would overcome divisions within the alliance and agree to new deployments on Russia's borders – a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.
He also outlined moves to boost Ukraine's security, "modernise" its armed forces and help the country counter the threat from Russia.
Rasmussen said: "We will adopt what we call a readiness action plan with the aim to be able to act swiftly in this completely new security environment in Europe. We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed. Now it's our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very high readiness.
"In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible NATO presence in the east."
However, Germany is opposed to new NATO deployments in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly said that the 1997 NATO-Russia Act should remain valid.
The 1997 NATO-Russia Act formally ended the rivalry between Russia and NATO. With this document, Moscow insists that the West promised not to set up any military bases in the former Eastern Bloc countries that joined NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Poland, in particular, has sought to establish permanent NATO bases on its territory since the start of the Ukraine crisis.
Moscow will take into consideration the activity of NATO forces near Russia's borders when drawing up its military planning, Russia's envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency on 28 August.
"Obviously, we will take into consideration the configuration and activity of the NATO forces at the Russian borders in our military planning, and will take all that is necessary to reliably provide security and to ensure safety against any threats," Grushko told Interfax.
NATO has taken a series of steps to reinforce its military presence in eastern Europe since the crisis began in Ukraine, which is fighting a pro-Russian insurgency.
Longer-term measures are expected to be agreed at a NATO summit in Wales next week.
Grushko said the alliance's plans to beef up its forces near Russian borders would only complicates NATO's relations with Moscow