NATO beefs up eastern Europe presence over Russian 'military build-up'

Denmark, Spain, Netherland send warships, fighters to Baltic, Black sea regions amid Ukraine tensions, says military bloc.

NATO beefs up eastern Europe presence over Russian 'military build-up'

NATO allies are sending more ships and jets to "enhance deterrence and defense" in eastern Europe as Russia "continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine," the organization announced on Monday.

"NATO Allies are putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to NATO deployments in eastern Europe, reinforcing Allied deterrence and defense as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine," the bloc said in a press statement. The allies include Spain, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the US.

On Saturday, a Spanish warship with around 200 sailors set sail for the Black Sea and is mulling whether to send fighter jets to Bulgaria, while Denmark has decided to send a frigate to the Baltic Sea and to strengthen NATO's air policing mission in Lithuania with four F-16 fighters, according to the statement.

France offered to boost NATO troops in Bulgaria, and the US expressed readiness to deploy more personnel and equipment in eastern Europe.

The Netherlands is deploying two F-35 fighter aircraft to take part in a similar mission in Bulgaria starting in April, while it is placing a ship and land-based units on standby for NATO's Response Force.

Welcoming the additional allied forces, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: "NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance."

"We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defense," Stoltenberg added, welcoming the decision of the NATO allies.

The announcement follows Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks explaining on Friday that Russia's proposals on European security arrangements demand the withdrawal of NATO troops, equipment, and weapons from Bulgaria and Romania.

A statement issued by NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said NATO would not renounce its right to defense and rejected the Russian demands because they are based on the "idea of spheres of influence in Europe" and "would create first and second class NATO members."

On Sunday and Monday, the US and UK governments decided to withdraw the families of their diplomats in Kyiv.

The US, with its European allies, has been warning that Russia is setting the stage for an invasion of Ukraine and has pre-positioned over 100,000 troops on its border with the former Soviet republic alongside significant artillery and tank deployments. Moscow has denied preparing for a military offensive, saying its troops are there for regular exercises.

NATO began to increase its presence in eastern Europe following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.