By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BRUSSELS/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – NATO says hundreds of thousands of troops in Europe are on “heightened alert” after Russia brought the war in Ukraine to the doorsteps of the military alliance.
And confirming earlier exclusive reporting by Worthy News, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said 100,000 American troops are in Europe, with 40,000 under direct NATO command.
A senior U.S. security source told Worthy News earlier there are also some 10,000 American forces in Ukraine operating off the radar. Washington officially said it would not send combat troops to the war-torn nation. But there are talks about a U.S.-backed air bridge transporting humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, Worthy News learned.
Stoltenberg spoke to reporters following a meeting of 30 NATO defense ministers, including United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. He said they had agreed to “continue to provide significant support to Ukraine, including with military supplies, financial help, and humanitarian aid.” U.S. President Joe Biden, who will meet NATO leaders next week, has already committed $800 million to military aid for Ukraine.
Wednesday’s meeting was held amid concerns that the conflict would spread after Russia attacked a military base near NATO member Poland. Air raid sirens reportedly also wailed in the Ukrainian border city of Uzhhorod near Hungary and Slovakia.
In recent days, Hungary was confronted with a drone carrying a bomb flying in its airspace for some 40 minutes before it eventually crashed in Zagreb, Croatia, several sources confirmed. Separately Hungarian fighter jets were scrambled when a Serbian aircraft with a bomb on board briefly violated Hungary’s air space while on its way to Moscow, authorities said.
The NATO chief warned Russia that any aggression against a member of the alliance would not be tolerated. “Moscow should not be in no doubt; NATO will not tolerate any attack on allied sovereignty or territorial integrity. “President [Vladimir] Putin must stop this war immediately. Withdraw his forces now and engage in diplomacy in good faith.”
But with no signs of easing tensions, Stoltenberg added that defense plans had already been activated to shield the alliance. “We face a new reality for our security. So we must reset our collective defense and deterrence for the longer term.” He stressed that military commanders had been tasked with bolstering defense across land, air, sea, cyber, and even space.
Stoltenberg said that on land, there needed to be substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance. NATO also wants to improve training further, Worthy News learned. “Tens of thousands of troops from across Europe and North America are training together in harsh climatic conditions as part of Norwegian exercise “Cold Response 2022”, NATO said.
Some 30,000 troops from 27 nations, “including NATO’s close partners Finland and Sweden,” are participating in the exercise and about 220 aircraft and more than 50 vessels, NATO added.
“The exercise shows NATO’s ability to deploy tens of thousands of forces to the High North. While at the same time NATO is reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance to shield NATO against any aggression,” the alliance stressed.
The drill “Cold Response allows NATO allies and partners to train together in cold weather conditions over challenging terrain,” NATO said. Cold Response deals with a fictional scenario where Norway is attacked and NATOs collective defense clause, Article 5, is invoked.
Observers from all members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were invited to Cold Response, but Russia declined the invitation.
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