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NATO Calls For Large Troop Buildup Along Russian Border

| by Zach Cohen

Four NATO battle groups, totaling 4,000 multinational troops, will be sent to the Baltic states and Poland in early 2017 in an attempt to "deliver a very clear message of strength and deterrence" in reaction to "a substantial military build-up by Russia."

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg announced in a press conference on Oct. 26 that 16 of its 26 member nations agreed to send troops to the region in what Haaretz reports is the largest NATO deployment along Russia's border since the Cold War.

The alliance will also create a rapid response force of 40,000 troops, according to RT. The US pushed for an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe consisting of surface-to-air missile interceptors and an increase in NATO jets in the region. 

"We are concerned about Russia's behavior," Stoltenberg said in the press conference. "During the meeting, we discussed recent military activity close to NATO’s borders. Including the recent KAVKAZ 2016 exercise, and Russia’s deployment of Iskander missile systems to Kaliningrad."

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According to Russia Behind The Headlines, Valery Gerasimov, Chief of Russia's general staff, said the Kavkaz exercise involved 120,000 military personnel and civilians, although "no more than 12,500 troops were involved in the exercise at any one time." 

SouthFront reports that the exercise emphasized rapid long-distance land and air deployments, as well as tests of Kalibr cruise missiles and Iskander ballistic missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear payloads.

In early October, Russia placed Iskander systems in their military enclave in Kaliningrad, nestled between Poland and Lithuania, reports The Guardian. Iskander missiles can travel a distance of 450 miles, meaning Berlin is within range. 

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius says that the move "possibly violates international treaties which limit deployment of ballistic missiles [which have a] range of over 500km."

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"This is a usual Russian tactic," he said. "Escalate tensions, create a discord and then expect concessions elsewhere."

A group of Russian ships is currently en-route to the Mediterranean to play a role in the conflict in Syria, according to Reuters. It passed through the English Channel on Oct. 21. 

In an analysis for the United States Naval Institute, Andrew Fink, who studies propaganda and extremism at the University of Leiden, suggests that the carrier group is "propaganda, not practical."

"The flagship of this battle group is the largest of Russia’s warships, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. ... [It] was not designed for strike missions ... [and] does not have catapults to launch aircraft, so the aircraft that take off to bomb targets in Syria can carry fewer and smaller weapons."

Sources: NATO, RT, RBTH, SouthFront, The Guardian, Reuters, US Naval Institute News / Photo credit: ActivistPost

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