Telegraph e-paper

Nato troops set to bolster borders against Russia

ByMatthew Holehouse in Brussels

BRITISH troops could be deployed along Russia’s border with eastern Europe under Nato plans to deter an incursion by Moscow.

Defence ministers meeting in Brussels last week discussed a major new plan to reinforce the Baltics, central and southern Europe against a possible invasion or “hybrid” attack.

It could involve battalions of up to 500-1,000 troops each being sent to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

They would be likely to include large numbers of American, British and German soldiers, to make clear to Russia that any Ukraine-style “intervention” will trigger a strong response from the Western Nato powers.

The units, to be deployed on rotation, would probably contain highly mobile special forces units armed with surface-to-air missiles, backed up by planes and helicopters.

It is part of a plan to reinforce eastern Europe that also includes boosting intelligence capabilities, planning to rapidly reinforce frontline units from western Europe in case of an emergency, and to make those home states better able to defend themselves.

A Nato source said: “The key thing for credible deterrence on land is that major allies should have a presence in this.

“So to be blunt, so that Russia knows that if it tries something on in a Baltic republic or in Poland or Romania, Bulgaria, it very quickly comes up against British or American or German troops.”

The outlines of a plan were expected to be agreed imminently, while the precise numbers and nationalities will be ironed out at a later date.

However, it is a compromise – eastern European states such as Poland are said to have sought a return to a Cold War posture in which tens of thousands of US troops and heavy weapons were permanently based on the front line.

The deployment will almost inevitably be denounced by the Kremlin as a provocation by Washington.

Sir Adam Thomson, the British ambassador to Nato, said it was a “back to the future” approach for Nato – a return to its founding principle of collective defence “but with a modern twist”.

“This is Nato taking a more muscular approach than it has done since the Cold War to enhance its forward presence to the East, and as necessary to the South, but only doing as much as is strictly necessary,” said Sir Adam.

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