Liblice (Czech Republic) (AFP) - Four central European states said Wednesday they would send troops to three Baltic NATO allies starting next year as tensions with their Soviet-era master Russia rise to levels not seen since the Cold War.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia said they would fine-tune quarterly rotational deployments of 600 troops to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in time for a key NATO summit in Warsaw this July.
"We would like to start on January 1, 2017," Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said following talks with his central European counterparts.
Each country will provide 150 soldiers for a period of three months.
NATO and the Baltic states will decide where exactly the mainly ground troops will be deployed following the July summit.
Stropnicky said the move is designed to help "Baltic allies and friends who have security concerns".
Spooked by Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, formerly Soviet-ruled Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are seeking international battalions of up to 1,000 troops in each of their territories.
NATO and the United States said this spring that they will switch their defence doctrine from assurance to deterrence in eastern Europe in response to a "resurgent and aggressive Russia".