Nato likely to ramp up military forces on its eastern flank

Nato secretary general Stoltenberg warns Russia against using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine

Nato will likely decide on Thursday to ramp up military forces on its eastern flank, the head of the alliance said on Wednesday, while also warning Russia against using nuclear weapons after its February 24th invasion of Ukraine.

Nato has sharply increased its presence at the eastern border of the alliance, with some 40,000 troops spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and is seeking to deploy four new combat units in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia.

"I expect leaders will agree to strengthen Nato's posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance. On land, in the air and at sea," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference ahead of a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Russian president Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in what he calls a "special military operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Mr Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

The additional multinational battlegroups come on top of four existing combat units, with a total of some 5,000 troops, deployed by Nato to the three Baltic states and Poland after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Mr Stoltenberg said the Ukraine crisis had shown that Nato must reset its deterrence and defence posture for the longer term, an issue Nato leaders are expected to discuss at their next regular summit at the end of June in Madrid.

“There is a new sense of urgency because we cannot take peace for granted,” he told reporters.

Additional aid

Nato leaders are also set to agree additional aid for Kyiv, according to Mr Stoltenberg, including equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

He warned Russia against using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine, while stressing Nato’s readiness to “protect and defend allies against any threat any time”.

“Russia should stop this dangerous irresponsible nuclear rhetoric...Russia must understand that it can never win a nuclear war,” he said, adding that any use of biological or chemical weapons would have “far-reaching consequences”.

Mr Stoltenberg also called on China to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine, and to not provide "material support" for Moscow.

China has not condemned Russia's invasion, though it has expressed concern about the war. Chinese vice-foreign minister Le Yucheng said on Saturday that Western sanctions against Russia were getting "more and more outrageous".

"For Nato it is of particular concern that China now, for the first time, has questioned some of the key principles for security, including the right for every nation in Europe to choose his own path," Mr Stoltenburg said.

In a show of Western unity against the war in Ukraine, Brussels will also host a G7 and an EU summit on Thursday.

Greater risks

In a separate development on Wednesday, a US general warned that Nato must face a Russian adversary that is more unpredictable and ready to take greater risks to project power in Europe.

Speaking during Nato exercises in Norway, Gen David Berger, commandant of the US Marines Corps, said studying Russian capabilities and military doctrine was no longer enough.

He said Russia's invasion of Ukraine had jolted analysts' assumptions that Mr Putin would always take calibrated risks, use limited ground forces and find diplomatic exit strategies, as he did in his 2014 annexation of Crimea and his intervention in Syria from 2015.

“I think the lesson learned here is you can’t predict what a dictator might do,” he said of Mr Putin.– Reuters