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NATO to bolster rapid response force amid Russian escalation, says Stoltenberg

NATO will boost its rapid response troop numbers to support member states and allies on its eastern and southern borders, the alliance's secretary general has said. The move follows Russia's latest operations in Syria.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance agreed to take the necessary steps to reinforce "collective defense."

"We have given the green light to the completed plan for our enhanced NATO Response Force, including its command control arrangements. We now have everything in place to make the Response Force stronger, faster and more capable," Stoltenberg told reporters following Thursday's meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's political decision-making body.

The rapid response force will double in size to 40,000 troops, and the "Spearhead Force" will be able deploy in as little as 48 hours. This force will be able to go wherever it is needed to deter and defend against threats, Stoltenberg added.

To the east, south

Stoltenberg said the move is to bolster defenses for NATO members and allies on the alliance's eastern and southern borders,

including Turkey.

NATO will also setup two additional NATO force integration units in Slovakia and Hungary to complement six units in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

However, Stoltenberg noted that "this is not just about the east," adding that the

alliance sees Russia's violations of Turkish airspace as "unacceptable."

"We have increased our ability to support and help all allies, but of course also including those who are really close to the violence, close to the turmoil we see to the south - in this case, Turkey. So if needed, we deploy," the NATO head said.

Karte Russische Präsenz und Luftangriffe in Syrien englisch NEU!

'Clear message'

"All of this sends a clear message to all NATO citizens: NATO will defend you. NATO is on the ground. NATO is ready," Stoltenberg said.

The announcement comes a month ahead of the alliance's largest military exercise in more than a decade: Exercise Trident Juncture. The

war games

are expected to bring together more than 30 nations and witness at least 30,000 troops perform combat maneuvers across Spain, Portugal and Italy.

While NATO member states form part of the US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" militant group, the alliance is not formally engaged in the conflict.

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