Russia

Calls from Eastern Europe suggest 'words only' cannot repel Russia

Estonia's Deputy Chief of Defence fears Moscow isn't heeding NATO warnings not to invade Ukraine.

"You can't push Russians back with words only, you can’t hug them to death," says Major General Veiko-Vello Palm, Estonia’s Deputy Chief of Defence, concerned Russia is not listening to NATO’s warnings against invading Ukraine.

Some 100,000 Russian troops have gathered near the border with Ukraine, prompting an increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe and threats of harsh sanctions were a cross-border offensive to take place.

However, the Estonian defence official wants more tangible support in the region.

Combat-ready NATO troops are already stationed in the Baltic states and Poland under NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence to deter Russian forces from potential invasion.

This formation followed Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and sees light battlegroup forces in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia – the latter housing a rotating British force on Operation Cabrit.

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Special forces from the US are also deployed to Estonia, but Maj Gen Palm says the country would "gladly accept" more US personnel and further support from the UK.

Combat aviation and a deep strike capabilities provided from the outside are also on Estonia’s defence wish list.

NATO has refused Moscow’s demands for the alliance to reduce its presence across Europe’s eastern borders and to leave Ukraine and Georgia outside of future membership expansion.

Boris Johnson says the UK plans on being part of any new NATO deployments if Russia invades Ukraine.