NATO has been ramping up its operations in the Baltic States as well as in Eastern Europe, since the Ukraine crisis began. Now it is being reported that it is considering different ways of increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe to put further pressure on Russia, despite previous denials that it would do this.
"Claims that NATO is building bases around Russia are… groundless," NATO states on its website.
"Outside the territory of NATO nations, NATO only maintains a significant military presence in three places: Kosovo, Afghanistan, and at sea off the Horn of Africa.
"With respect to the permanent stationing of US and other Allied forces on the territory of other Allies in Europe, NATO has full abided by the commitments made in the NATO-Russia Founding Act. There has been no permanent stationing of additional combat forces on the territory of other allies; and total force levels have, in fact, been substantially reduced since the end of the Cold War."
However, the Wall Street Journal reported that sources had told the newspaper that:
"NATO countries are discussing increasing the number of troops stationed in members bordering Russia and putting them under formal alliance command, as part of a new effort to deter aggression from Moscow."
Under one plan, NATO would station a battalion of between 800 and 1,100 troops in Poland and each of the Baltic States.
The suggestion drew a swift response from the Kremlin, whose press secretary Dmitry Peskov said:
"This is the same advancement of NATO and its military infrastructures towards our borders; this is not a new phenomenon, and we have been saying for a long time that it is undesirable and may have dangerous consequences."
Aggression or Rapprochement?
However, the paper's source also stated that European states were not totally agreed on the principle of putting more NATO troops into the region.
German officials in particular have expressed reservations, making it clear to its European allies that it does not want to treat Moscow as a permanent enemy or lock it out of Europe.
This was backed up Friday when the US Stratfor website — widely referred to as the 'shadow CIA' reported that Berlin was "testing the waters before making a decision on the future of Germany's relationship with Russia." It follows a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin in and German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel in Moscow.
Meanwhile, the EU High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini is reported to have circulated a discussion paper around member states calling for a softening of approach towards Russia and a rapprochement that could lead to an easing of sanctions on Moscow.