Nato to strengthen presence on eastern flank - Stoltenberg

"We will transform the Nato response force and increase the number of our high-readiness forces to well over 300,000," Stoltenberg said ahead of a Nato summit to be held in Madrid later this week. Olivier Hoslet/PAP/EPA

Nato will upgrade its battle groups on its eastern flank to brigade level, and will increase its high-readiness forces to 300,000 troops from the current number of 40,000, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general, has said.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels on Monday, Stoltenberg also said the bloc was planning to boost its capacity to contain crisis and conflict situations by increasing the amounts of equipment and military supply inventories, strengthening air defence and command structures, and improving defence plans.

"We will transform the Nato response force and increase the number of our high-readiness forces to well over 300,000," he said ahead of a Nato summit to be held in Madrid later this week.

The secretary-general said the moves would require more investment from Nato members.

He said nine members were reaching or exceeding the two-percent-of-GDP spending target, and 19 had clear plans to reach the target by 2024. Five more will do that at a later date.

Poland is among the leaders in defence spending in Nato, with expenditure exceeding two percent of the country's GDP and will head towards three percent in the near future.

Nato has been adopting a stronger posture after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. The attack sounded alarm bells in Nato and raised old concerns about Russia's imperial appetite among Nato's eastern members.

"I expect that allies will state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security, to our values, to the rules-based international order," Stoltenberg also said.