- Armoured force including 800 UK troops will be sent to Estonia for six-month deployment next May
- They will then be relieved by soldiers from another Nato nation to keep up a continuous presence
- It comes as Vladimir Putin has launched nuclear defence drills in Russia and is building more ships
- Russia has also unveiled pictures of its largest ever nuclear missile that could ‘destroy France-sized area’
Britain is to deploy troops, tanks and jets to Eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression.
In the biggest military build-up in Eastern Europe since the Cold War, an armoured force will be deployed to Estonia.
RAF planes are also being dispatched to patrol Romanian airspace for the first time.
The moves are designed to stop Moscow taking over or undermining its former Eastern European satellites as it has with Crimea and Ukraine.
The UK is sending 800 troops to Estonia as part of a Nato reaction to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, with both sides increasing their military capability in eastern Europe in the biggest military build-up since the Cold War
In other developments:
- Vladimir Putin upgraded the firepower of his Baltic Fleet with more ships and missiles;
- 40million Russians took part in four days of nuclear defence drills;
- Spain cancelled plans to refuel Russian vessels heading for Syria.
Several Nato states, including Estonia, fear they could be next on President Putin’s hit list. And fellow members, including the UK, have a legal duty to defend them.
The alliance’s build-up will see 800 UK troops deployed to Estonia for six months from May. They will be relieved by soldiers from another Nato nation to keep up a continuous presence.
Sir Michael Fallon said the British mission would incorporate Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior vehicles and hand-held drones.
Britain is sending tanks, drones and 800 troops to Estonia as part of the biggest military build-up on Russia’s borders since the Cold War. Russian president Vladimir Putin is pictured in the Black Sea resort of Yalta yesterday
The Royal Navy was placed on red alert last week after it emerged Russia was sailing a fleet of warships along the British coast en route to Syria
British Royal Navy type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan is pictured with its Wildcat helicopter as it shadows the Russian Carrier Task Group in the English Channel last week
Speaking at Nato headquarters in Brussels, the Defence Secretary added: ‘This is Britain stepping up in Nato, beefing up the reassurance that we are able to offer.
‘Although we are leaving the European Union, we will be doing more to help secure the eastern and southern flanks of Nato.’
An MoD spokesman added: ‘The UK is stepping up its package of measures to support its allies in Europe, in the face of a more assertive Russia.’
Tensions between Russia and the West have escalated due to Moscow’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Aleppo.
President Putin sent a fleet of eight Russian warships through the English Channel to assist the assault on the besieged Syrian city.
But yesterday, following pressure from its Nato allies, Spain withdrew permission for the ships to refuel because Moscow was unable to pledge the vessels would not be used to bomb Syria.
Lev Gudkov, head of the Russian polling group Levada-Center, said most of his countrymen ‘believe that the Third World War has begun’.
Pictures have emerged showing how the Kremlin completed a nuclear drill for 40 million citizens
France, Denmark, Italy and other allies are expected to join the four battle groups led by the United States, Germany, Britain and Canada to go to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, with forces ranging from armoured infantry to drones
He added: ‘Right now we are still in the cold phase of the war, which may or may not turn into a hot war.’
Footage emerged yesterday of Russian emergency workers wearing protective suits and gas masks as part of their doomsday exercise – the biggest in decades.
Mr Putin has demanded sufficient bomb shelters to protect the entire population of Moscow.
The arrival of extra Russian warships in the Baltic last night sparked concern among Nato members.
A Russian newspaper cited a military source saying the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol were the first of five vessels to be deployed.
They are to form a new division in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Another source said the vessels were armed with Kalibr long-range cruise missiles.
‘The fleet’s potential targeting range will be significantly expanded in the northern European military theatre,’ the source told Interfax.
Rockets point towards the sky during the 2016 Army Games, an international event organised by the Russian Defense Ministry
A fortnight ago, Hillary Clinton launched an open attack on Russia in a presidential debate, saying Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win and accused the regime of ‘war crimes’ in Syria
Russia’s defence ministry, which said earlier this month the two ships were en route to the Mediterranean, did not respond to a request for comment.
Nato and the Swedish military confirmed the two warships had entered the Baltic. ‘Nato navies are monitoring this activity near our borders,’ said Dylan White, the alliance’s spokesman.
The cruise missiles on the Buyan-M class corvettes are known by the Nato codename Sizzler. The Russian military says they have a range of at least 900 miles.
Though variants of the missile are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the ships are believed to be carrying conventional warheads.
‘The addition of Kalibr missiles would increase the strike range not just of the Baltic Fleet, but of Russian forces in the Baltic region, fivefold,’ said Ben Nimmo, a defence analyst.
He said the Baltic Fleet’s coastal defences would also be beefed up with Bastion and Bal land-based missile systems.
SPAIN SHUTS OUT RUSSIA: PLANS TO REFUEL PUTIN’S WARSHIPS CANCELLED
Spain last night cancelled plans to refuel Russian warships heading for Syria after Britain warned it would have civilian lives ‘on its conscience’.
The Russian flotilla – led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov – had been expected to take on fuel and supplies tomorrow at the port of Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa.
But officials in Madrid yesterday said Russia had withdrawn its request amid mounting pressure on the government to cancel the stop.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon had warned Britain would be ‘extremely concerned’ if a Nato member assisted a carrier group that later carried out attacks on Syrian civilians.
Speaking in Brussels, where Nato defence ministers are meeting, Sir Michael said: ‘Our concern is that any Nato member should consider assisting a Russian carrier group that is heading for Syria and might end up bombing Syrian civilians.
‘That clearly wouldn’t be right and runs counter to the solidarity of Nato.
Eight of Vladimir Putin’s warships were expected to take on fuel and supplies from the Spanish port of Cueta this week
‘If that carrier group heads down to the eastern Mediterranean, as Moscow has announced, and then gets involved in striking in Syria and bombing civilians then that will be on Madrid’s conscience.’
Last night Spain said it had withdrawn its permission for the refuelling after Russia was unable to pledge that the warships would not be used to launch bomb attacks in Syria.
It is not known where the boats will now take on fuel. Greece, another Nato member, and Malta, which is part of the EU but not Nato, have previously allowed Russian navy ships to use their ports.
Last week Royal Navy vessels monitored the flotilla as it moved through the English Channel. The fleet was shadowed by the Navy as it passed through the Dover Strait.
Spain, a Nato member, regularly allows Russian warships to stop in Ceuta, which faces the British territory of Gibraltar on Spain’s southern tip.
But Nato said the prospect of Russia’s only aircraft carrier heading to the region did not ‘inspire confidence’ that Moscow is seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Sweden’s defence minister said his country was worried by the presence of the warships in the Baltic. He said the move was likely to keep tensions in the region high.
‘This is worrying and is not something that helps to reduce tensions in our region,’ said Peter Hultqvist.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said he was concerned by the Iskander ballistic missiles deployed in the Kaliningrad region earlier this month.
The movement of the ships comes a day after Russia unveiled pictures of its largest ever nuclear missile – Satan 2 – which is capable of obliterating the UK.
The UK force in Estonia will be joined by French and Danish companies. At least two RAF Typhoons will be sent from RAF Coningsby to the Black Sea region for four months as part of an air policing mission over Romania.
And a 28-strong team will go to Kosovo to provide reassurance in the Western Balkans and troops will be dispatched to Poland next year.
Russia has unveiled chilling pictures of its largest ever nuclear missile, capable of destroying an area the size of France. A contract for the weapons was signed in 2011, and they are expected to be ready in 2018
Each missile contains 16 nuclear warheads, according to pictures revealed online from the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau. It is also able to evade radar.
The US is hoping for European nations to fill four battle groups of some 4,000 troops as part of Nato’s response to Russia. More troops will be sent to the Baltic states and eastern Poland early next year.
They will be backed by Nato’s 40,000-strong rapid reaction force.
The Russian flotilla – led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov – had been expected to take on fuel and supplies tomorrow in Ceuta, a Spanish territory in Africa.
But officials in Madrid yesterday said Russia had withdrawn its request amid mounting pressure.
Sir Michael had warned Britain would be ‘extremely concerned’ if a Nato member assisted a carrier group that later carried out attacks on Syrian civilians.