NATO deploys additional military assets in Eastern Europe amid tensions with Russia

NATO said it was deploying additional fighter jets and ships to Eastern Europe as tensions with Russia refused to ease.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has also offered a €1.2 billion ($1.36 billion) aid package to Ukraine to help Kyiv mitigate the economic impact it faces amid of a buildup of around 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and feared an invasion was imminent. Moscow rejects the claims.

“NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including strengthening the eastern part of the alliance,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, as he welcomed the additional military support from Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands.

“We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defense,” Stoltenberg said.

The Kremlin accused NATO of exacerbating tensions through “information hysteria” and “concrete actions”.

Russia has already invaded Ukraine once, annexing the Crimean peninsula in 2014, and backed pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists fighting the Kiev government in the Donbass region.

High-level talks between Russia and Western capitals have failed to move things forward or ease tensions. Moscow has issued a series of controversial proposals to the West, including a promise from NATO that it will never allow Ukraine to join the military alliance. NATO rejected this request out of hand.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the financial aid, consisting of emergency loans and grants, was intended to “help Ukraine now cope with its rapidly escalating needs funding because of the conflict”.

Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO or the EU, both have offered their support to Ukraine.

EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels on Monday amid tensions, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also calling.

An EU statement condemned “continued aggressive actions and threats against Ukraine and calls on Russia to de-escalate.”

“Notions of ‘spheres of influence’ have no place in the 21st century,” he said.

The EU said it remained committed “to the fundamental principles on which European security is based”.

“This includes in particular the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States; the inviolability of borders; refrain from resorting to the threat or use of force; and the freedom of states to choose or modify their own security arrangements.

“These principles are neither negotiable nor subject to revision or reinterpretation. Their violation by Russia is an obstacle to a common and indivisible security space in Europe and threatens peace and stability on our continent.

The Danish foreign minister said the EU would be ready to impose heavy sanctions on Russia if it attacked Ukraine, but did not specify which sectors would be targeted.

The EU imposed economic sanctions on Moscow hitting its energy, banking and defense sectors after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

“There is no doubt that we are ready to react with comprehensive and unprecedented sanctions if Russia were to invade Ukraine again,” Jeppe Kofod said on arrival at the talks with the EU.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Ireland’s foreign secretary said Russia’s plan to hold naval exercises off the coast of Ireland was “not welcome” given the current tensions. The exercises, due to start in February, will take place in international waters, but in Irish-controlled airspace and within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

In accordance with legal requirements, Russia informed the Irish aviation authorities in advance of the planned maneuver.

“Now is not the time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what is happening with and in Ukraine at the moment,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

“It is important that I inform my colleagues of these intentions.

“Russia, under international law, can hold military exercises in international waters, but the fact that it chooses to do so on the western borders of the EU, off the coast of Ireland, is in our view something which is rightly unwelcome and unwanted now, especially in the weeks to come.

Updated: January 24, 2022, 4:08 p.m.

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