NATO considers deploying forces in Southeast Europe
NATO defense ministers are due to meet to decide on ordering military leaders to propose plans to deploy battlegroups in Bulgaria and Romania, and possibly Slovakia and Hungary.
Three diplomats said Tuesday that NATO defense ministers are expected to launch this week a plan that could lead to the deployment of four multinational battle groups to southeastern Europe in response to Russia's alleged military buildup on Ukraine's borders.
The defense ministers are scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday to decide whether to order military leaders to propose plans to deploy combat groups of about 1,000 soldiers in Bulgaria and Romania, and possibly Slovakia and Hungary.
A senior NATO diplomat revealed that "there will be a tasking that allows us to escalate but also to de-escalate if Russia pulls back its military."
It is noteworthy that Ukraine is not a member of the NATO alliance, and the latter is under no treaty obligation to defend it.
The final decision on possible NATO reinforcements would come later on, as both France and Bulgaria offered to lead the battlegroups in Romania and Bulgaria respectively.
The possible deployment would be considered against Russia's security demands for NATO to withdraw its troops from eastern Europe.
Hungary & Slovakia not to irritate Russia
NATO confirmed that the battlegroups that would be used in the Baltic region would not be permanently stationed, but will maintain a "persistent" presence that would serve as the first line of defense in the event of an alleged Russian "attack" on NATO territories.
It is noteworthy that NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hinted that the alliance is examining the possibility of deploying new combat groups, not only in Romania but also in a number of countries in the Black Sea region.
For their part, Hungary and Slovakia are not looking forward to irritating Russia, and therefore the alliance may avoid deploying forces in the southeast, diplomats said.
Alternatively, NATO may resort to creating a French-led multinational force in Romania to coordinate training exercises in Eastern Europe, allowing the movement of troops to and from the region without an official presence.
NATO's plans come as Kyiv and Western states have recently expressed concern about the alleged increase in "aggressive actions" by Russia near the borders of Ukraine.
However, Moscow has repeatedly rejected such accusations, stating that it does intend to threaten anyone and is not going to attack Ukraine, pointing out that the Western claims are used as a pretext to deploy more NATO military equipment near Russian borders.