Ukraine crisis: Nato agrees major troop deployment to guard against Russian aggression

Britain will contribute 1,000 soldiers and take the lead

A 4,000-strong Nato rapid reaction force – initially including 1,000 British troops – is to be set up in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and could be deployed within two to five days of any crisis emerging in eastern or central Europe.

David Cameron said Britain will take the lead in the “spearhead” force, which would be headed by senior UK military officers. It will be based in Poland and is due to be fully operational by the end of next year.

The force was agreed by political and military leaders at the Nato summit in Newport, South Wales today. It will sit alongside an existing Nato response force which takes longer to deploy.

In addition, Britain is contributing 3,500 troops to a programme of Nato exercises in eastern Europe over the next 16 months. The alliance is also preparing to "pre-position" supplies of fuel and ammunition in bases in eastern Europe.

The decision to press ahead with the Nato deployments reflects unease in eastern European Nato member states – including Poland and the Baltic countries – about President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist ambitions.

 

It was finalised hours before the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was received as a guest of honour at the Nato summit, announced a ceasefire had been reached in the east of the country.

Nato’s secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “This decision sends a clear message to any potential aggressor: should you even think of attacking an ally, you will be facing the whole alliance.”

Mr Cameron told his end of summit press conference: “No one will leave here with any doubt that our collective security is as strong as it has ever been. The Alliance is firmly committed to providing ongoing reassurance to our eastern Allies.”

He was speaking as European Union leaders in Brussels finalised the details of fresh sanctions against Russia. Similar measures are set to be announced by the American and Canadian governments.

They were expected to include restrictions on Russian energy, hi-tech and aerospace firms as well as further travel bans and asset freezes on figures close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Cameron said existing sanctions were already having an impact on the Russian economy, adding: “At the end of the day, Russia needs the European Union and the United States more than the European Union and the United States needs Russia.”

The Prime Minister said the West stood ready to impose further sanctions if the ceasefire broke out and pro-Russian separatists continued their aggression.

“We should accept Ukraine’s territorial integrity. That’s why we have imposed the sanctions, that’s why we have piled on the pressure,” he said.

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