Tough talk as NATO-Russia relations continue to deteriorate: NATO leaders, who meet in the UK later this week, are planning a "rapid reaction" force that can deploy to Russia's worried Eastern European neighbors within 48 hours, reports the New York Times. The "spearhead" force would have a permanent command center to allow it to respond swiftly to threats, the Globe and Mail notes. "This spearhead ... could include several thousand troops, ready to respond where needed with air, sea, and special-forces support," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters.
The NATO summit in Newport, Wales, is especially important because "Russia thought it can change the borders of a sovereign European country by force, and this is happening not very far from NATO's borders," says Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, calling for fresh plans to ensure all members of the alliance are "equally and strongly protected." Russian defense chiefs, meanwhile, say NATO's actions are "evidence of the desire of US and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia" and that Moscow plans to craft a new military doctrine in response to NATO plans and the Ukraine crisis, the BBC reports. In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of "direct and undisguised aggression" yesterday as government forces continued to suffer reverses, including a retreat from the Luhansk airport, where the Ukrainian military says a Russian tank battalion supported pro-Russia rebels, Reuters reports.