Britain is to push other Nato countries to introduce a range of Cold War-style deterrents against potential Russian military aggression in eastern and central Europe.
David Cameron is today calling for tough action to be agreed by the alliance in response to the destabilisation of Ukraine by the Kremlin.
It would include a programme of exercises by Nato armed forces in areas vulnerable to attack and the siting of equipment, including weapons, ammunition and ration packs, in countries that feel threatened by Russia.
Nato’s East European headquarters in Szczecin, Poland, would be beefed up under the moves. Gen Philip Breedlove, Nato's top commander in Europe, has proposed that the base be expanded to help the alliance respond faster to any Russian threat.
Troops in Georgia, which was invaded by Russia in 2008, and in other nations bordering Russia could also receive specialist training from Nato under the plans.
Mr Cameron will press Nato chiefs to approve the moves at next month’s summit of the alliance, which takes place in south Wales.
The plans would fall short of establishing a permanent armed presence in the area, but ensure Nato could react swiftly to any aggression.
British sources said last night the action was designed to “make clear to Russia that neither NATO nor its members will be intimidated”. One told The Independent: “Nato needs to stand and look firm, to talk tough and act tough in the hope we don’t find ourselves facing a more dangerous situation.”
The military moves are designed to compliment economic sanctions being rolled out by western nations following the turmoil in Ukraine, culminating in the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines jet with the loss of 298 lives.
Fighting continued unabated yesterday with at least 10 Ukrainian soldiers killed when their convoy was ambushed by pro-Russian separatist rebels.
Mr Cameron makes his call in letters to leaders of Nato’s member states and to its secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
He writes: “Six months into the Russia-Ukraine crisis we must agree on long-term measures to strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those Allies who fear for their own country’s security and to deter any Russian aggression.”
The Prime Minister says: “This should be part of a broader action plan that enables us to respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the alliance, including when we have little warning.”
Calling for a review of the group’s long-term relationship with Russia, he says: “While Nato has only ever sought to be a partner to Russia, not a threat, it is clear that Russia views Nato as an adversary.
“We must accept that the cooperation of recent years is not currently possible because of Russia’s own illegal actions in Nato’s neighbourhood and revisit the principles that guide our relationship with Russia.”
In a damning report this week, the Commons defence select committee accused Nato of complacency over the threat from Russia and ill-prepared to respond to an attack by its former Cold War adversary.
It said the bloodshed in Ukraine should act as a “wake-up call” for the 28-nation alliance, as well as the British government.
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