Days after Russia demanded that NATO rule out eastward expansion and withdraw from military positions outside its borders, the security bloc’s senior general suggested that the alliance strengthen its presence in Bulgaria and Romania.
According to a report per German newspaper Spiegel, the supreme commander of NATO’s Allied forces in Europe, Tod Wolters, sought to expand the alliance’s “enhanced forward presence” (EFP) under which it had deployed military forces in the Baltic States and eastern Poland.
The newspaper said it had “information” that Wolters had called for a reinforcement of troops on NATO’s eastern border.
The report comes amid a military standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces, as Moscow has deployed more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine.
Russia sent nuclear-capable bombers on patrol over Belarus on Saturday, its third such deployment this month. In October, Russia backed Belarus in a border crisis that saw thousands of migrants and refugees, mostly from the Middle East, cross Western Europe via Belarusian territory. There are fears that Russia is launching an attack on Ukraine via Belarus, which borders northern Ukraine.
With Romania on Ukraine’s southwest border, NATO could bolster Kiev’s defenses from the south, as well as in the nearby Black Sea. The Romanian president tweeted his support for an “increased NATO and US military presence in Romania and the #Black Sea”.
If Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it enjoys proximity to the Western bloc which had worried Russia. Putin warned the alliance to cross Russia’s “red lines” regarding missile deployment in Ukraine, warning of an equivalent Russian response if that were to happen. Russia had recently tested hypersonic missiles capable of traveling at nine times the speed of sound.