BRUSSELS — NATO defense ministers on Wednesday approved new multinational reinforcements to beef up defenses of frontline alliance members most at risk from Russia, the alliance's secretary-general announced.
Jens Stoltenberg said the plan adopted by the United States and NATO's 27 other members calls for the use of troops from multiple countries who rotate in and out of eastern European member states rather than being permanently based there.
He said military planners will make recommendations on the number and composition of troops needed this spring.
The soldiers "will be multinational to make clear that an attack against one ally is any attack against all allies and that the alliance as a whole will respond," Stoltenberg told a news conference following the first session of the two-day defense ministers' meeting.
Getting firm commitments, or even deciding how many NATO troops should be rotated eastward, may take time, however.
Douglas Lute, U.S. ambassador to NATO, said he expected defense ministers to agree on "a framework" but that actual force levels will probably be hammered out only after consultations with NATO's supreme commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove.
One NATO official, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said that one proposal under consideration calls for creation of a brigade-sized force: roughly 3,000 soldiers.
On Feb. 2, the Obama administration announced its own plans to quadruple spending on U.S. troops and training in Europe.
U.S. officials say that if Congress approves the $3.4 billion proposal, it would mean year-round presence in Europe of an American brigade engaged in training, mostly in small units sent to the NATO members nearest Russia.
What's more, enough tanks and other hardware would be stockpiled in advance to equip another U.S. armored brigade whose troops could be airlifted to Europe in case of a crisis.