Britain, the United States and Germany have committed more troops to defend Nato’s eastern flank as the alliance pivoted to officially recognise Russia as its “most significant” threat.
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said he would place more soldiers, warplanes and a Royal Navy aircraft carrier on standby to head to the region and President Biden said he would station US forces in Poland permanently.
Russia said that it would move military positions to defend against the new Nato deployments. Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said: “What is happening will invariably lead to compensatory measures on our part. We have the capabilities and resources. Security will be 100 per cent guaranteed.”
Biden says the US will ramp up its forces
In one of the most notable developments at the Nato summit in Madrid, allies agreed to a new “strategic concept” — a blueprint that sets out Nato’s overall strategy for the next decade.
Russia was described as “the most significant and direct threat to allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area”. In the previous concept agreed in 2010, Russia was described as a “strategic partner”.
China has also been mentioned for the first time after wrangling between officials, with allies saying that its “coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values”.
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, said they had also agreed a “fundamental shift” in which the alliance would return to Cold War-style readiness to respond to the increased threat posed by Russia.
Wallace revealed that as part of the wider plans an extra 1,000 British soldiers would be committed to Estonia, where there are already 2,000 troops, to create a force that could help to defend against a possible Russian invasion.
A few hundred extra soldiers could be sent to run the new one-star headquarters — with a brigadier in charge — with the rest based in the UK but ready to fly to the country within days.
One of Britain’s two aircraft carriers and its escort ships, as well as other naval assets, would also be offered to the alliance for its new 300,000-strong high-readiness force, Wallace said.
Under the plans, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales carrier strike groups will rotate so one of them is always ready to go to eastern Europe. The carriers are typically escorted by Type 23 frigates, which have anti-submarine capabilities, Type 45 destroyers with sophisticated air defence systems, and a submarine.
In addition, the defence secretary said he wanted more Typhoon warplanes to be deployed to Cyprus to focus on the Black Sea region and the southern flank of Nato.
Following discussions with his Nato counterparts, Wallace said: “We have now allocated a brigade, which will be another 1,000 [troops] because three battle groups make a brigade, which is on standby back in the UK. We will be moving forward a brigade headquarters . . . that will be a few hundred people on top of the current 2,000.”
It is understood some equipment will also be sent to Estonia in advance of a potential invasion so it is ready to use. However, the commitment falls short of calls by the Baltic states for a permanent division-sized force of potentially 15,000 troops.
Biden said the US would increase its military presence in Europe. The White House said Biden’s commitments meant the US would maintain a presence of 100,000 troops in Europe, up 20,000 from the levels before the war in Ukraine began. The US will also send more air defences and other capabilities to the UK, Germany and Italy.
The Economist reported that the Germans had agreed to commit a brigade-sized force to Lithuania. Last week Wallace travelled to Turkey where he also offered to send surveillance assets.
Earlier in the day Wallace took aim at President Putin, accusing him of having “small man syndrome”.
Boris Johnson announced £1 billion more in military support for Ukraine, which will go towards air defence, drones, new electronic equipment and ammunition. The prime minister was also said to have told allies that the 2 per cent Nato target for defence spending was “of a different era”.