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Nato agrees to set up rapid reaction "spearhead' force to ward off Russia

“This decision sends a clear message — Nato protects all allies, at all times.”

One Canadian and two US jets take part in a flypast over the Nato 2014 Summit in South Wales.
One Canadian and two US jets take part in a flypast over the Nato 2014 Summit in South Wales.
Image: Carl Court/PA Wire

NATO LEADERS HAVE agreed to set up a new rapid reaction force and to maintain a “continuous” presence in an eastern Europe rattled by Russian moves in Ukraine.

The new “spearhead” force, comprising several thousand troops and ready to deploy in a few days, means “we can deal swiftly and firmly with any threat,” Nato head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

“This decision sends a clear message — Nato protects all allies, at all times,” he said.

At the same time, Nato’s 28 leaders adopted a Readiness Action Plan to strengthen collective defence, he said on the second day of a Nato summit.

“This is a demonstration of our solidarity and our resolve,” he said, and would help reassure allies spooked by the Ukraine crisis and gains by Islamic radicals in the Middle East.

Building on previous measures of support, Nato leaders agreed also to “maintain a continuous presence in the air, on land and at sea in eastern parts of the alliance on a rotational basis,” Rasmussen said.

Nato Summit 2014 - Day Two Nato leaders watch a flypast of military aircraft from Nato member countries on the final day of the summit. Source: Stefan Rousseau

Nato has rotated troops and aircraft through newer member states such as Poland and the Baltic states, which were once ruled from Moscow and have called for help in the face of a more assertive Russia.

Nato’s relations with Russia are based on the 1997 Founding Act which fixed eastern Europe’s post-Cold War borders and prohibited both parties from stationing their troops there permanently.

It also said those borders could not be changed by force.

Nato and Rasmussen have repeatedly charged that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine puts it in breach of the Founding Act which the alliance, in contrast, continues to honour.

There has been speculation Nato might revoke the Founding Act but the consequences could be severe and stoke uncertainty in the region.

Nato already has a larger Response Force but it has never been deployed in action and could take weeks to put in the field, analysts say.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Ukraine expresses “careful optimism” ahead of peace talks with Russia and rebels >>

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