NATO chief says to boost forces on eastern flank

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will strengthen its battle groups along its eastern flank, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday following a meeting of the alliance's defense ministers.

Addressing a press conference at the end of two days of preparations for a NATO summit scheduled to be held in Madrid, Spain on June 29-30, Stoltenberg said the ministers had discussed the organization's future posture and how it can step up practical support for the allies by substantially strengthening its presence, capabilities and readiness.

"This will mean more NATO forward deployed combat formations to strengthen our battlegroups in the eastern part of our alliance," Stoltenberg said. "More air, sea and cyber defenses, as well as pre-positioned equipment and weapon stockpiles. And a new force model, with more forces at higher readiness, and specific forces pre-assigned to the defense of specific allies to enable much faster reinforcement."

Stoltenberg said the ministers had also discussed resourcing. He recalled that defense investment has been rising across the European allies and Canada for seven consecutive years now and that the allies continue to contribute to NATO deployments and invest more in high-end capabilities.

"Now is the time to keep up the momentum. So we can continue to preserve peace, prevent conflict and protect our people," he said.

"We made clear that all countries have the right to choose their own path without outside interference. ...Russia's aggression is a game-changer. So NATO must maintain credible deterrence and strong defense," he said.

The allied ministers met with Ukraine's defense minister and said that it was crucial for NATO to deliver continued support to Ukraine.

The NATO summit in Madrid will be "transformative, Stoltenberg said, "with important decisions in key areas, such as strengthening NATO's deterrence and defense capabilities and sustaining support for Ukraine and other partners at risk. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky will participate in the summit.

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