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NATO Can Put Troops Wherever It Wants, New Secretary-General Says

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Image: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
New North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway speaks at his first press conference on his first day of work at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 1, 2014. Stoltenberg, former Norwegian prime minister, began his first day in the job, with the alliance facing challenges from the standoff with Russia over Ukraine, and turmoil in the Middle East. THIERRY CHARLIER / AFP - Getty Images

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WARSAW — New NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that the Western alliance could deploy its forces wherever it wants, apparently calling into question post-Cold War agreements that have been shaken by Russia's actions in Crimea and Ukraine. Stoltenberg was visiting NATO member Poland to reassure it that NATO would provide the protection it sought against its former communist master, Russia, which in recent months has annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and been accused by the West of sending troops and equipment to back pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

At a summit a month ago, NATO leaders agreed to set up a "spearhead" rapid reaction force that could be sent to a hotspot within days, and to pre-position equipment and supplies in eastern European countries to receive the force if needed. But they rejected appeals from NATO members in Eastern Europe, including Poland, to station thousands of troops there permanently -- partly because of the expense, and partly because they did not want to break a 1997 pact under which NATO promised Russia it would not permanently station significant combat forces in the east.

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— Reuters

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