NATO approves force aimed at deterring Russia

NATO leaders opened their summit in Wales on Sept. 4, 2014, grappling with what role the alliance should play in containing the mounting militant threat in the Middle East. The heads of state also focused on the crisis in Ukraine and next steps in Afghanistan. (Credit: AP)

NEWPORT, Wales - Seeking to counter Russian aggression, NATO leaders approved plans Friday to dispatch several thousand troops in Eastern Europe that could quickly mobilize if an alliance country in the region comes under attack.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the new unit would send a clear message to potential aggressors.

"Should you even think of attacking one ally, you will be facing the whole alliance," he declared as a two-day NATO summit in southern Wales drew to a close.

The agreement on the rapid response force is the cornerstone of discussions at the summit on how to combat Russia's provocations in Ukraine. While Ukraine is not part of the NATO alliance, Russia's actions have prompted fears among member countries in Central and Eastern Europe that the Kremlin could seek to make gains within their borders as well.

Rasmussen said the high-readiness force would give NATO a "continuous presence" in Eastern Europe, with alliance countries contributing forces on a rotational basis. The force will include land, air and sea assets, Rasmussen said.

The NATO leader said the new force was one of many changes the leaders agreed to, aiming to make NATO more nimble and improve its capacity to address the multiple security crises to its east and south.

"This is the blueprint for NATO of tomorrow," Rasmussen said.

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