World

British defense minister: Russian aggression to NATO growing

Britain's defense minister says Russian aggression toward NATO is increasing and the alliance was right to have agreed to a "very high readiness taskforce."

Michael Fallon said Thursday that Russia had annexed Crimea, threatened the Baltic states and interfered in the democratic processes in Western Europe with "propaganda and other means," in the past three years.

He also accused Russia of "aggression in the eastern Mediterranean, prolonging the conflict in Syria," adding "the threat to NATO particularly to the southeastern flank is growing."

He said the alliance had rightly agreed at the 2014 Wales summit to "a very high readiness taskforce which is .... demonstrating the rapid response that NATO requires."

Fallon is on a two-day visit to Romania, where he has stressed that Britain, which is leaving the European Union, remains committed to European security.

NATO has stepped up its exercises in Eastern Europe in recent years as a response to Russian's increased presence in Ukraine and the Black Sea area. Fallon visited the Mihail Koglaniceanu air base in eastern Romania on Wednesday, where he met pilots and technicians servicing RAF Typhoon fighter jets that are beefing up NATO security around the Black Sea.

He also visited the shooting range at Cincu, in central Romania, where 1,000 British troops are taking part in the "Noble Jump 2017" exercises.