Ukraine Crisis: NATO Boosts Military Presence in Eastern Europe

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NATO vowed Wednesday to toughen its military presence in Eastern Europe in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land,” Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels. “We will start to implement these measures straight away.”

Ukraine has begun to confront pro-Russian militants in its eastern cities, and Russia has amassed an estimated 40,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. The Ukrainian prime minister said Wednesday that Russia is building a “new Berlin Wall.”

Outside analysts say that Russia is trying to destabilize eastern Ukraine, just as it did with the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Russian troops took control of Crimea last month, claiming to protect ethnic Russians there, before Russia formally annexed the peninsula.

NATO said that it will fly more policing missions over the Baltic region, put ships in the Baltic Sea “as required” and step up its training for NATO-allied military.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, but the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are. They have asked NATO for additional protections because they fear Russian aggression.

“Our decisions today are about defense, deterrence and de-escalation,” Rasmussen said. “They send a clear message: NATO will protect every ally and defense against any threat against our fundamental security.”

He called on Russia to pull its troops back from the border, denounce pro-Russian militants in Ukraine and participate in a political solution to the crisis.

— Erin McClam