NATO members from Eastern Europe have pushed for a larger allied military presence on the bloc’s eastern flank. They condemned “Russia’s aggressive actions” in their neighborhood, at a virtual summit in Bucharest.
“Russia’s aggressive actions and military build-up in the immediate vicinity of NATO, including the recent escalation in the Black Sea, on Ukraine’s borders and in the illegally annexed Crimea, as well as its aggressive hybrid activities, continue to threaten Euro-Atlantic security and challenge the rules-based international order,” a joint statement said.
Leaders of the ‘Bucharest Nine’ group said „We condemn Russia’s acts of sabotage on Alliance territory,” in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, in their statement.
They mentioned explosions of the ammunition depot in 2014 in the Czech Republic. They also cited “a similar pattern of behavior on the territory of Bulgaria.”
Prosecutors in Bulgaria said last month they were collecting evidence about the possible involvement of Russia in a number of explosions at Bulgarian arms depots. Officials claim there may be a link with similar blasts in the Czech Republic.
“We stand in full solidarity with our allies, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Bulgaria.
Polish President Andrzej Duda traveled in person to the summit which he co-hosted with Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis.
Many leaders are concerned about Russia’s attempts to reassert its influence in the region, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also attended the Monday’s meeting where they discussed defense and deterrence on the alliance’s Eastern flank.
The summit lays the ground for a full NATO summit in Brussels in June.
Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania form the Bucharest Nine.
They were all part of the Warsaw Pact with the Baltic states part of the Soviet Union. They are now members of European Union members as well as the Western-led military alliance.