(CNN) The UK has deployed hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe as NATO continues to bolster its presence in the face of perceived Russian provocation.
In the largest buildup of troops in the region since the Cold War, the UK has said it will send Royal Air Force Typhoon jets to Romania for up to four months in 2017.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon also confirmed that 800 personnel will be moved to Estonia, 150 more than originally planned.
“Backed by a rising defense budget, this deployment of air, land and sea forces shows that we will continue to play a leading role in NATO, supporting the defense and security of our allies from the north to the south of the alliance,” Fallon said.
Syrian conflict adds to tension
The announcement comes a week after a Russian fleet, which was reportedly en route to Syria, passed close to British waters.
On Wednesday, Russia withdrew a request for a flotilla of warships, including its flagship aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, to refuel in the Spanish port of Ceuta as the ships head toward Syria.
In a statement, Spain’s foreign affairs ministry said Russia withdrew the request after the ministry had asked the Russian Embassy in Madrid to clarify reports the flotilla might participate in military operations against the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
The Russian role in the Syrian conflict has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and NATO that have risen since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine in 2014.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that recent tactics by Moscow had forced the alliance to respond.
“Russia has tripled defense spending,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
“Russia has invested heavily in a modern military equipment. They are conducting a large-scale, no-notice exercises close to NATO borders, but perhaps most importantly Russia has been willing to use military force against neighbors.
“We have seen that in Georgia and we have seen it in Ukraine with illegal annexation of Crimea and the continued destabilization of eastern Ukraine. So therefore NATO has to respond. ” (CNN)