0740 GMT January 29, 2020
“NATO is facing a new security environment, both caused by violence, turmoil, instability in the south -- ISIL in Iraq, Syria, North Africa -- but also caused by the behavior of a more assertive Russia,” Jens Stoltenberg in Poland’s western city of Zagan on Wednesday.
Stoltenberg chief accused Moscow of having “used force to change borders, to annex Crimea and to destabilize eastern Ukraine.”
“There NATO has to respond. We are responding, and we are doing so by implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defenses since the end of the Cold War,” he went on to say.
Stoltenberg made the remarks during the first exercise of NATO’s Spearhead Force in Zagan, adding that the new rapid reaction unit plays a significant role in the alliance’s military equations.
“The Spearhead force is a key element of this reinforcement, and it’s great to see that it’s functional, and that it’s exercising here in Poland,” he pointed out.
Earlier in the day, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak rehashed the West’s anti-Russian rhetoric, calling on NATO to expand its military presence in the region.
“Those who are responsible for the security of their countries should do their job irrespective of someone’s words or threats,” he pointed out in reference to the recent remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin about adding over 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to the country’s nuclear arsenal in 2015.
Putin had also warned that the new missiles “will be capable of penetrating any, even the most technologically advanced, anti-missile defense systems.”
Meanwhile, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that Moscow does not aim to arouse security concerns in the West, saying that the announced plan is part of Russia’s “strategic security” and just serves as a deterrent.
“The deterring effect of nuclear weapons can hardly be denied,” he noted.
NATO and the US accuse the Kremlin of backing pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an allegation which Moscow categorically denies.
The conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine after people in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with Russia in March 2014.
The situation exacerbated after Kiev dispatched troops to the eastern Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk in April 2014 in an attempt to quell pro-Russians there.
The crisis so far has claimed the lives of at least 6,400 people, according to UN figures.