NATO talks up 'Spearhead Force' to protect Baltics

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NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels Tuesday said they were making progress implementing measures agreed at the Wales summit in September to bolster their strength in the Baltic states and that an 'interim' rapid reaction force would be in place soon.

An interim 'Spearhead Force' will be operational "early next year" a joint statement by ministers said.

The force would "improve the Alliance’s readiness" and ministers also agreed to maintain a continuous NATO presence in the eastern part of the Alliance through next year.

“We are going to implement the Readiness Action Plan on time and in full,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO Defence Ministers will decide on the force’s size and design in February with the aim to "stand it up in 2016," Stoltenberg said. The force will be able to deploy within a few days. In the meantime an interim Spearhead Force will be created and will be available early next year.

That force will be based mainly on troops from Germany, the Netherlands and Norway and will “provide the quick reaction capability we need, straight away,” Stoltenberg said.

In a separate statement ministers said the measures in the Readiness Action Plan "are effectively responding to increased Russian military activity, including through monitoring Russian military flights and maintaining the integrity and safety of our airspace.

"At the same time, we are enhancing the NATO Response Force’s capabilities, including through the development of a new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, the VJTF. We welcome the establishment of an interim VJTF... with forces predominantly from Germany, Norway and the Netherlands, available to the Alliance early in 2015."

An accompanying fact sheet listed additional details of the “Spearhead Force” (Very High Readiness Joint Task Force) saying it would consist of "several thousand ground troops supported by air, maritime and special forces, able to deploy within a few days."

The Alliance also pledged "establishment of a multinational NATO command and control presence and reception facilities on the territories of the eastern Allies (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania) at all times, with personnel from Allies on a rotational basis, focusing on planning and exercising collective defence."

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