NATO has finalised plans to send troops to the Baltic states and eastern Poland.
It follows Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine in 2014.
“It is important and necessary that NATO responds and that we are delivering a response when we see the substantial and significant military buildup of Russia over a long period of time,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
He added that NATO leaders decided in 2014 to increase defence spending to counter a more assertive Russia and that the 28 alliance members had reversed years of defence cuts and that their spending had been increasing since 2015.
As for NATO’s ‘all for one, one for all’ defence commitment enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty, he said this could not be subject to any conditions if it was to be an effective deterrence to aggression and a reassurance to allies — including the United States.
The initial contingent of NATO force will be just 4,000. But defence experts say the move is largely symbolic yet an important political one.
“What NATO and the allies are counting on is a multinational mix of soldiers and the politics that would immediately come into picture if there was a conflict and Russian forces kill British or American or German or Canadian or Dutch or whatever troops. That would off course set off immediate diplomatic crisis,” said Brooks Tigner of Jane’s Defence Weekly.
NATO correspondent Andrei Beketov says the alliance has other plans to strengthen its defences.
NATO also wants to boost its presence in the south-east, he says, but officials warn it could be delayed by Turkey, especially after the coup attempt.
Ankara is reluctant to cooperate with Romania and Bulgaria, our correspondent adds.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to play a leading role in the Black Sea, which he once described as “almost a Russian lake”.