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NATO’s Eastern Flank Seeks Increased Alliance Presence In Region

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left) and Polish President Andrzej Duda speak in Warsaw on May 28.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left) and Polish President Andrzej Duda speak in Warsaw on May 28.

Member countries of NATO’s eastern flank, known as the “Bucharest Nine,” are calling on the alliance to bolster its presence in their region at the upcoming summit in the face of what they see as Russian “aggression.”

"The 2018 NATO summit should further strengthen the alliance's unity and, in the spirit of the 360-degree approach, deliver a comprehensive response to the current security challenges, including against the hybrid threats the allies are confronted with," the grouping said on June 8 after a meeting in Warsaw.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said what the countries are specifically looking for is an “increased presence" by the alliance in their region.

Standing alongside Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis, Duda said the group believes it is necessary to supplement NATO's current ground forces "with aerial and naval components" to "achieve the full spectrum."

They also called on the Western military alliance to provide defenses against Russian "hybrid warfare" techniques that include military, financial, and political manipulation, often utilizing computer hacking and propaganda.

In the final declaration, the group said Russia’s actions "threaten our longstanding vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace."

NATO increased its assets in Central and Eastern Europe following Russia's annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. Last year, it deployed four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states as tripwires against possible Russian adventurism, while the U.S. military sent a Patriot battery to Lithuania for drills.

The Warsaw gathering came as NATO foreign ministers were meeting separately in Brussels ahead of the July 11-12 summit of alliance leaders.

The group, known as the B9, first held talks in Romania in 2015. It consists of Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia, all once in the Soviet sphere of influence.
Eight presidents and one parliament speaker attended the meeting.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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