Nine NATO States Urge Alliance to Shore Up Its Eastern Flank

Nine NATO member states in eastern Europe urged the military alliance to boost its presence in the region to address increased security threats stemming from Russia, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said.

After an online meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, the countries agreed to maintain a joint stance during the alliance’s summit next month to highlight the importance of the region stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

“NATO needs to continue to strengthen its defense and deterrent stance, especially on the eastern flank,” Iohannis said in a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda. “That’s why we argued in favor of an increased military presence of the allied forces, including the U.S., in Romania and on the eastern flank.”

Tensions have frequently flared between Russia and NATO’s easternmost members since they joined the alliance in a rush to escape Moscow’s embrace and re-integrate with the U.S. and western Europe following the collapse of communism.

The antagonism surged last month when President Vladimir Putin massed tens of thousands of troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine seven years after he unilaterally annexed Crimea. The standoff, one of the most tense since the Cold War, eased after Biden called for a summit with Putin.

Still, spats with Russia and individual NATO members continue to crop up across the region, most recently when the Czech Republic expelled scores of diplomats from Moscow’s embassy in Prague after accusing the Kremlin’s intelligence services of an attack on a munitions warehouse that killed two people in 2014.

Along with the troop buildup around Ukraine, Russia also held military exercises in the Black Sea, which borders NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Ukraine, which isn’t part of NATO, received a pledge for more security assistance from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week.

“The concerning security situation in the Black Sea – which we covered extensively in the talks – showed us that we need to remain vigilant,” Iohannis said.

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