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Stoltenberg: NATO Seeks to Boost Its Eastern Flank, Enhance Ties With Sweden and Finland

© REUTERS / INTS KALNINSNATO flag is seen during NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group military exercise Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia October 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
NATO flag is seen during NATO enhanced Forward Presence battle group military exercise Silver Arrow in Adazi, Latvia October 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.01.2022
The Pentagon earlier reportedly proposed that US President Joe Biden deploy up to 5,000 additional troops to Eastern Europe. The proposed deployment did not affect Ukraine, which Washington claims is facing the threat of a Russian "invasion". Moscow has repeatedly rejected these allegations.
NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that the members of the bloc are considering further enhancing their presence at the eastern fringes of the alliance. He added that the potential move might include deployment of additional battle groups there.
Stoltenberg went on to reaffirm NATO's open door policy for accepting new members and said that the bloc is considering boosting cooperation with Finland and Sweden.
Earlier, several NATO countries announced that they were putting their troops on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to the sites of the alliance's deployment in Eastern Europe. According to the bloc's statement the move was prompted by Russia's allegedly continuing "military build-up in and around Ukraine".

"NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance. We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence", NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Denmark and Spain will be sending warships to the Baltic Sea and other alliance naval forces. Both countries as well as the Netherlands will also be sending fighter jets to Lithuania and Bulgaria. France, for its part, has expressed a readiness to send additional troops to Romania.
The alliance further noted that the US had also notified it that Washington is considering plans to boost its military presence in Eastern Europe, within close proximity of Russia's borders.
Top Pentagon officials informed President Joe Biden on 23 January of the options he can take to deter any alleged invasion of Ukraine by Russia. According to The New York Times, citing unnamed administration officials, one of the options included sending between 1,000 and 5,000 troops to Eastern Europe. While it's a relatively small contingent, the reported plan included an option to increase the number tenfold – up to 50,000 American servicemen.
Over the past two months, Russia has repeatedly rejected allegations by Western politicians and media outlets that it purportedly plans to invade Ukraine. Moscow also condemned the West's criticism of the alleged redeployment of Russian troops close to Ukraine's borders.
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The Kremlin stressed that it is the country's sovereign right to move the nation's troops within its own territory and pointed out that NATO's troop numbers in Eastern Europe have been steadily growing over the past several decades despite criticism from Moscow. Russia, NATO, and the US held security talks earlier this month, with the Kremlin presenting its proposals on how to put an end to growing tensions and resolve the security crisis in the region. The West rejected the key proposals, such as the ban on the alliance's eastward expansion, but suggested that the dialogue between them should continue.
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