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NATO commander advocates arming Baltic and Eastern Europe to deter Russia

Eastern Europe and Baltic countries need to be fortified with arms supplies to counter the threat from Russia, a NATO commander has said. However, the possibility of Russia occupying Ukraine was unrealistic, he said.

The standoff between Russia and NATO countries prompted the NATO to build a case for arming its member states in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

"The NATO should begin an arms deployment offensive for Baltic countries and allies in the east, before stationing heavy weapons in eastern Europe," NATO's Central and Eastern Europe Commander Hans-Lothar Domröse told "Die Welt" newspaper in an interview on Friday.

"We need to furnish our allies with modern and effective weapons like helicopters, howitzers, tanks, anti-aircraft rocket systems and heavy machines and train them to use the equipment," Domröse added.

The NATO commander, who leads the NATO headquarters in Brunssum in the Netherlands, said the bloc was always ready to protect its members, but every country needed to ensure it had the capacity to protect itself. "The bigger NATO countries should sell modern weapons to their allies in Baltic at a fair price," Domröse stressed.

Russian occupation of Ukraine 'unrealistic'

Tensions between Moscow and European countries, especially members of the NATO and USA have been high after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year. The maneuver was followed by suspected pro-Russian separatists declaring an independent republic in eastern Ukraine.

Despite Russia's alleged role in the Ukraine conflict, which has killed more than 6000 people, NATO's Domröse said there were slim chances of Russia taking over all of Ukraine: "Even if Russia took over all of Ukraine, it wouldn't be able to bear it. The price would be too high."

A Russian occupation of Ukraine would mean having large numbers of troops stationed all over the country and financing such an operation would be difficult, the commander argued, calling such a possibility "unrealistic."

The NATO's statement comes shortly after Russia announced it was adding 40 nuclear-capable missiles in its defense arsenal. The military bloc accused Moscow of dangerous "sabre-rattling."

mg/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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