NATO calls for more troops for face-off against Putin

Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian premier and liberal leader in the European Union parliament, said in a Twitter message it was "scandalous" that Spain, a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, would allow the Russian Kuznetsov fleet "to refuel and receive technical assistance on Spanish territory". He particularly condemned the Syrian regime and Russian Federation for launching air strikes on eastern Aleppo.

UK Defense Minister, Michael Fallon, said it would be on "Madrid's conscience" if the Russian fleet was used to launch airstrikes. Russian Federation had withdrawn its request to have Spain refuel its warships. The flotilla left the Arctic port of Severomorsk and had since been monitored by NATO's Standing Maritime Groups. Madrid explains that it is checking whether the three ships, registered three weeks ago, are a part of Kuznetsov flotilla. The Kuznetsov, an aging Soviet-era aircraft-carrying missile cruiser, is set to provide a contingent of strike fighters that will join the already sizable Russian air force presence stationed in northeastern Syria.

"This month alone, Russian Federation has deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad and suspended a weapons-grade plutonium agreement with the United States", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. Western officials believe the deployments may be part of a Russian effort to bolster its naval base in Kaliningrad, an exclave between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies Poland and Lithuania, and could lead to further confrontations in the region.

Amid escalating tensions between Russian Federation and western powers, the United States and Britain announced Wednesday the deployment of further troops, weapons and fighter jets in Romania and Poland, in the biggest post-Cold War military development on Russia's borders.

Fears are growing that President Vladimir Putin could be plotting to invade the Baltic states - which broke away from Russian Federation when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.

U.S. ambassador Samantha Power criticised Russian Federation, saying it had never worked cooperatively with the United Nations during the pauses to ensure humanitarian relief. The British forces will be supported by French and Danish troops. The United States, the United Kingdom, and several other members have agreed to send troops to the Baltics and eastern Europe. Canada is also sending about 400 troops, although they are headed to Latvia along with more than 100 Italian troops. The battle groups will be bolstered by a 40,000-strong reaction force, and various reinforcements as needed.

Stoltenberg said the alliance's response is "proportioned" to Russia's military buildup and its activities along its borders.

Russia´s daily Izvestia newspaper cited a military source as saying that the first two of five ships, the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol, had already entered the Baltic Sea and would soon become part of a newly formed division in Kaliningrad, Russia´s European exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

"These moves do not lower tensions or restore predictability to our relations", he added.

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