BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO will deploy small units in six Eastern European nations to help coordinate a spearhead force set up in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine, the alliance's secretary-general said Friday.
Jens Stoltenberg said the units in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania will be the first of their kind there.
Defense ministers from the 28-nation military alliance will discuss the full force, which can react quickly to any hotspots in Europe, when they meet on Feb. 5.
Stoltenberg said countries responsible for providing the several thousand troops to the force should be known next week.
The forward units will comprise a few dozen personnel only. They will plan and organize military exercises, and provide command and control for any reinforcements the force might require.
"They're going to plan, they're going to organize exercises, to provide ... some key command elements for reinforcements," Stoltenberg said.
France, meanwhile, is pledging tanks and armored vehicles to bolster NATO forces in Poland, where leaders are increasingly uneasy about Russia.
The French military equipment is expected to remain in Poland for two months.
As tensions increased in 2014, NATO forces conducted about 200 military exercises, and Stoltenberg vowed this would continue as the alliance adapts to the increased presence of Russian warplanes in European skies. NATO intercepted Russian aircraft more than 400 times last year.
Stoltenberg also warned that Russia has continued to build up its military, as European NATO allies cut budgets again last year.
"It is not possible to get more out of less indefinitely. That is the reason why we have to stop the cuts and gradually start to increase defense spending as our economies grow," he said.
"Despite the economic crisis, despite the financial problems they are facing, Russia now is still giving priority to defense spending."