NATO chief said on Friday he expected members to take a final decision in the spring to deploy more troops in the southeastern part of the alliance, adding that there is “a risk of a new armed conflict in Europe.”
Speaking at a joint news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Military Base in Romania, Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the security of the Black Sea region is “of utmost importance to NATO” since three members, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, and the valued partners of Ukraine and Georgia share the coast.
He explained that NATO defense ministers will discuss plans to strengthen NATO’s presence in the southeastern part of the alliance during their meeting next week in Brussels.
The plans include deployment of a “battle group in Romania, but also, perhaps, battleships in other parts of the southeast part of the alliance,” he explained, adding that he expected that “the final decision will be taken during the spring.”
He admitted that there is “a risk of a new armed conflict in Europe,” saying that this is why NATO reached out to Russia to call for de-escalation in the conflict in Ukraine and to relaunch talks in the NATO-Russia Council.
Stoltenberg has sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, inviting Moscow to start discussions on arms control and military transparency.
The US, with its European allies, has accused Russia of setting the stage for an invasion of Ukraine after concentrating more than 100,000 troops and significant artillery and tanks on the border.
Besides, at least 30,000 Russian troops are currently participating in a joint military drill in Belarus.
Moscow has denied preparing for a military offensive and said its troops are on the Ukrainian border and Belarus for regular exercises.