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NATO Endorses Rapid-Response Force to Tackle Russia in Eastern Europe

In a move that comes amid Cold War fears and references to World War II, NATO allies this week are expected to back the use of a rapid-reaction force that can swoop into hot spots in Eastern Europe. At a moment’s notice, 4,000 troops would be deployed within 48 hours into these troubled territories — a military maneuver supported by the former Soviet states feeling threatened by Russia.

“We have to make sure the deterrence is strong enough so it will become unthinkable for Russia to go beyond (Ukraine),” Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas told Reuters on Tuesday, referring to Moscow’s actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

The troops would come from NATO’s 28-member countries, and weapons and equipment would be stockpiled in Eastern Europe for easy access, officials first announced Monday. NATO is trying to preempt potential Russian aggression against former Soviet states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — all countries that President Barack Obama will meet with ahead of the NATO summit this Thursday and Friday. Clashes continue in Ukraine, where leaders say Russian President Vladimir Putin has allowed his soldiers to invade in the east and aid pro-Russian separatists. Putin continues to deny he is involved, even though NATO claims there is satellite evidence showing Russia’s military involvement in the country. Ukraine’s defense minister, Valeriy Heletey, also warned on Facebook that the fighting will likely escalate: “A great war has arrived at our doorstep, the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II.”

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— Erik Ortiz, with Reuters