BRUSSELS – NATO is doubling its battlegroups on the alliance’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the group’s secretary-general said Wednesday before a key summit at which President Biden will meet European allies in Brussels in the coming days.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also focused on the possible import of Russia’s potential use of chemical or biological weapons into Ukraine for NATO, saying such use “would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict”. And he ramped up rhetoric about China’s role in ending the conflict, warning Beijing not to provide material support to Moscow.
Mr Stoltenberg’s remarks, in a news briefing a day before the start of an unusual series of consecutive summits about Russia’s brutal, months-long invasion of Ukraine, which shows no sign of an end.
“The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, along with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland,” he said, as he strengthened NATO’s deployment along its eastern border. with the combat actions. -ready, battalion size units, typically having several hundred troops each. “This means we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups along the entire eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea,” he added.
“All of this is the immediate response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said, adding that the troops would remain there “as long as necessary.”
NATO leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday for a summit on the invasion. Mr Biden will then join EU leaders in Brussels – the Belgian capital, home to both NATO and the European Union headquarters – at a second summit on Thursday afternoon. And leaders of the Group of 7 Leading World Economies, including the United States and several EU countries, as well as Canada, will meet Thursday evening to discuss the Ukraine crisis.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the latest summit via videoconference, an EU official said.
In his news briefing, Mr Stoltenberg said any use of chemical or biological weapons — which are prohibited by treaty — by Russia in Ukraine would be “a flagrant violation of international law.”
The use of such weapons would have “serious consequences”, he said, leading not only to possible devastation in Ukraine, but also “serious consequences for neighboring countries due to the contamination or proliferation of chemical agents for biological agents will, of course, also have consequences for neighbors.”
Mr Stoltenberg insisted that the alliance was eager to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia and would therefore not deploy NATO troops in Ukraine or heed Ukrainian pleas for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone.
At the same time, he warned China not to aggravate the conflict by providing material support to Moscow.
“Beijing has joined Moscow to question the right of independent nations to choose their own path,” Stoltenberg said, using language more pointed toward China than before.
“China has given Russia political support, including by spreading blatant lies and misinformation,” Stoltenberg said. “And allies are concerned that China can provide material support for the Russian invasion.”