NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Friday of the “real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe” as the alliance and Russia step up their military presence around Ukraine.
Moscow has around 100,000 troops stationed near the Ukrainian border and Western leaders were preparing for telephone consultations amid fears of an invasion.
A total of 1,000 additional US troops intended to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank are arriving in Romania this week, while more Allied troops and equipment are also being sent to other Eastern European countries.
“There is a real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe. The number of Russian soldiers is increasing and the warning time is decreasing,” Stoltenberg told reporters after visiting the Mihail Kogalniceanu base near the Black Sea with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
“At the same time, we have no certainty, and so we continue to reach out to Russia to call on it to de-escalate and engage in good faith political dialogue with NATO and its allies.” , he added.
US President Joe Biden announced last week that he was sending 1,000 troops to Romania and 2,000 to Poland.
Those arriving in Romania are transferred from a base in Germany.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also said he is ready to send hundreds of troops to Romania under NATO command.
Romania, a NATO member since 2004, already hosts about 900 American soldiers, as well as 140 Italian soldiers and 250 Polish soldiers.
Bulgaria, Romania’s southern neighbor, said four Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon fighters arrived on Friday as part of efforts to secure NATO’s eastern flank.
The plane with 130 Spanish personnel will be stationed at Graf Ignatievo southern air base and will “carry out enhanced air policing tasks” with the Bulgarian Air Force until March 31, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry said. in a press release.
As a member of NATO, Bulgaria is required to maintain at least one squadron of 12 aircraft in combat condition.
But the inability to maintain enough of its aging fleet of Soviet-built MiG-29 fighters prompted Sofia in 2016 to allow NATO to help protect its airspace.
Bulgarian Defense Minister Stefan Yanev on Thursday confirmed an expected delay in the delivery of eight new F-16 fighters that the country ordered from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin in mid-2019.
In the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, Bulgaria offered to establish a battle group of 1,000 soldiers on its territory, with the support of other NATO allies.
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