NATO's defence ministers plan to boost the alliance's forces and military equipment in its eastern flank as Russia's offensive continues in Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ministers made “significant progress
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ministers made “significant progress" in their discussions on a new force model. (AA)

NATO defence ministers have discussed ways to bolster forces and deterrence along the military alliance's eastern borders to dissuade Russia from planning further attacks in the wake of its military campaign in Ukraine.

NATO said on Thursday it has placed over 40,000 troops under its direct command, mainly on the eastern flank, and is looking at how it can further strengthen its presence, readiness, and capabilities. 

“This will mean more NATO forward-deployed combat formations, to strengthen our battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance, more air, sea and cyber defences, as well as pre-positioned equipment and weapons stockpiles," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence at headquarters in Brussels.

The meeting came ahead of a June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid that will seek to set a roadmap for the alliance in coming years.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to detail any changes in America’s positioning of forces across Europe but said the US and its allies will take steps to rapidly deploy troops if needed. 

That includes positioning more equipment in the region and putting troops on higher levels of alert.

READ MORE: US sees no signals of diplomacy ending Russia-Ukraine conflict soon

'Significant progress'

Artis Pabriks, the Latvian defence minister, said the military alliance should position larger armed forces and material in Baltic countries.

“We want an improved planning. We want a headquarters structure. We want pre-positioning of different types of equipment, so if a crisis would come we should not wait," he said.

Stoltenberg said ministers made “significant progress" in their discussions on a new force model that would involve more forces at higher readiness and others assigned to the defense of specific allies.

Discussions in Brussels also focused on the need for more defence spending, Stoltenberg said, with the bids from Sweden and Finland to join the alliance also on the table.

Stoltenberg saluted the United States' decision to send an additional $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine and said NATO allies are “prepared to continue to provide substantial, unprecedented support" to the country.

Austin praised the "historic decision" by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership, expressing his hopes that discussions will continue to progress favorably.

Türkiye, however, has voiced its opposition to the Nordic pair’s NATO accession over what Türkiye says is the two countries' support for PKK/YPG terror groups. 

READ MORE: NATO's Stoltenberg praises 'steps taken' to address Türkiye's concerns

Source: AP