UK deploys hundreds of troops and aircraft to eastern Europe amid Russia tensions

The move is part of a Nato initiative to station 4,000 troops in eastern Europe - the largest military build-up on Russia's borders since the Cold War.

Alexandra Sims
Thursday 27 October 2016 12:57
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RAF Typhoons will be sent to Romania for up to four months
RAF Typhoons will be sent to Romania for up to four months

The UK is deploying hundreds of troops to eastern Europe as part of Nato’s largest military build-up on Russia's borders since the Cold War.

RAF Typhoon aircraft, deployed from RAF Ciningsby, will be sent to Romania for up to four months and 800 personnel will be sent to Estonia, with France and Denmark contributing further troops, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced on Wednesday.

The deployments are part of a Nato initiative to station some 4,000 troops in four new battalions on the Russian boarder.

The announcement comes days after a fleet of Russian warships heading to Syria sailed through the English Channel.

Soviet-era aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, loaded with fighter jets, reconnaissance and combat helicopters and cruise missiles to bolster Russia’s bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad, crossed international waters in the North Sea with seven other vessels on Friday.

On Wednesday, Russia withdrew its request for warships to refuel at a Spanish port on their way to bomb Syria amid international outrage.

It comes amid increasing tensions over Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria, the Ukraine conflict and tit-for-tat sanctions with the EU.

Mr Fallon said the deployment to Estonia will include armoured Infantry, equipped with Warrior armoured fighting vehicles, tactical UAVs, and a troop of Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks.

The RAF Typhoon fighters will join the Baltic air policing mission and offer support to the Black Sea allies. The Typhoons will be based at Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in Romania next year, the Ministry of Defence said.

Mr Fallon said: “Backed by a rising defence budget this deployment of air, land and sea forces shows that we will continue to play a leading role in NATO, supporting the defence and security of our allies from the north to the south of the alliance.”

The US, Canada, Germany and other Nato allies have also promised troops for the four battle groups to be stationed to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, with forces ranging from armoured infantry to drones.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the troop contributions to the new 4,000-strong force in the Baltics and eastern Europe were a measured response to what the alliance believes are some 330,000 Russian troops stationed on Russia's western flank near Moscow.

Russian warships move through English Channel under Royal Navy watch

"This month alone, Russia has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad and suspended a weapons-grade plutonium agreement with the United States," Stoltenberg said, also accusing Russia of continued support for rebels in Ukraine.

NATO's aim is to make good on a July promise by NATO leaders to deter Russia in Europe's ex-Soviet states, after Moscow orchestrated the annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced a "battle-ready battalion task force" of about 900 soldiers would also be sent to eastern Poland, as well as another, separate force equipped with tanks and other heavy equipment to move across eastern Europe.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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