NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says alliance defense ministers on Thursday will consider the implications for NATO's own security of the "troubling escalation of Russian military activities" in Syria. "NATO is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threat," Stoltenberg said Thursday. He added NATO has already increased "our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces, including to the south, including in Turkey, if needed." On Wednesday, Russian warships fired cruise missiles in the first combined air-and-ground assault with Syrian government troops since Moscow began its military campaign in the country last week.
Over the weekend, Turkey reported back-to-back violations of its airspace by Russian warplanes—and Stoltenberg doesn't believe Russia's claim that they were accidental. NATO officials have expressed fears there could be an encounter, accidental or otherwise, between Russian planes and air forces of the US-led coalition attacking ISIS in Syria. "We'll be meeting today to see what we can do to de-escalate this crisis, particularly in terms of air safety," British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said as he arrived at NATO headquarters Thursday. "We'll be calling on Russia specifically to stop propping up the Assad regime" and to use its forces to "stop Assad bombing his own civilians," he said.