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NATO Rattles Sabers as Russia Escalates in Syria

NATO head says alliance is 'implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War'

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (l) shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (r) at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on October 08, 2015.  (Photo: DoD)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the military alliance agreed to beef up its forces in the face of what he called a "troubling escalation of Russian military activities" in Syria.

"We are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg said ahead of his meeting with defense ministers in Brussels.

The defense ministers agreed to set up two NATO units in Hungary and Slovakia, and gave the ok to doubling its Response Force to 40,000. "We now have everything in place to make the Response Force stronger, faster and more capable," Stoltenberg said.

"This sends a clear message to all NATO citizens: NATO will defend you. NATO is on the ground. NATO is ready," Stoltenberg said after the meeting.

Russia is accused of deliberately violating Turkish airspace this past weekend, and on Wednesday it launched 26 cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea at Syrian targets. Turkey and western officials have accused Russia of targeting with those strikes not ISIS but other rebel forces.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday in Istanbul, "We would not want any tensions with Russia, but it is our right as a neighbor to expect Russia to respect Turkey’s airspace and borders and to respect Turkey’s interests in Syria,"

Stoltenberg told reporters, “NATO is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threat."

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