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Stoltenberg: NATO plans permanent military presence at border with Russia

Ukrainian servicemen study a Sweden shoulder-launched weapon system Carl Gustaf M4 during a training session on the Kharkiv outskirts, Ukraine, April 7, 2022. (Photo by AP)

NATO countries have planned for a permanent military presence on the alliance’s eastern border in an effort to contain future Russian military actions, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says. 

In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, Stoltenberg said NATO was “in the midst of a very fundamental transformation” that will reflect “the long-term consequences” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions.

“What we see now is a new reality, a new normal for European security. Therefore, we have now asked our military commanders to provide options for what we call a reset, a longer-term adaptation of NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

Speaking at a press conference following the meetings of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Stoltenberg said that the members agreed to ramp up the supply of weapons to Kiev, including hi-tech arms.

Stoltenberg declined to say which countries would increase supplies or what equipment they might send, but noted: “Rest assured, allies are providing a wide range of different weapons systems, both Soviet-era systems but also modern equipment.”

Putin announced what he called a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, predominantly populated by ethnic Russians.

NATO refuses to send troops or weapons to Ukraine or impose a no-fly zone over it to keep the trans-Atlantic military group from being drawn into a wider war with Russia. Earlier, Stoltenberg said that “NATO is not part of the conflict,” and it only helps Ukraine with “upholding the right for self-defense.”

However, some European member states of NATO have sold military equipment including anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons and medical supplies to Ukraine.

Slovakia Prime Minister Eduard Heger confirmed that it had sent its S-300 air system to Ukraine, becoming the first NATO country to answer the calls by President Volodymyr Zelensky to supply powerful missile weaponry.

I would like to confirm that #Slovakia has provided #Ukraine with an air-defence system S-300. #Ukrainian nation is #bravely defending its sovereign country and us too. It is our duty to help, not to stay put and be ignorant to the loss of human lives under #Russia’s agression.

— Eduard Heger (@eduardheger) April 8, 2022

Britain has also been outspoken about its intentions, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising, during a surprise visit to Kiev on Saturday, to equip the Ukrainian army with 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.

The aid was meant “to support Ukraine in this crucial phase while Russia’s illegal assault continues,” Johnson said during his visit.

British foreign secretary Liz Truss also said that “there was support for countries to supply new and heavier equipment to Ukraine so that they can respond to these new threats from Russia".

"We’ve agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to NATO-standard equipment on a bilateral basis,” she added.

Britain would also guarantee an additional $500 million in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking its total loan guarantee to $1 billion, and would liberalize tariffs on most imports from Ukraine while taking other measures to free up trade.

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