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NATO Allies Pledge Troops, Equipment to Bloc's Eastern Border

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, talks with U.S Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, left, prior to a meeting of the North Atlantic Council Defense Ministers session at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Oct. 26, 2016. NATO defense ministers met to discuss tense relations with Russia, plus other issues.

NATO allies on Wednesday pledged troops and military equipment to countries bordering Russia amid new signs of heightened tensions with Moscow.

The contributions, made during a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, came amidst NATO's biggest military buildup since the Cold War.

At a news conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described Moscow's latest actions — two Russian warships with cruise missiles entering the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Denmark — as another example of what he called a "pattern" that includes the use of military force against its neighbors and threatening rhetoric.

"NATO has to respond to continue to deliver credible deterrence in a new security environment," he said. "And we have to remember that the reason why NATO is strong is not because we want to provoke a conflict, but we want to prevent the conflict."

NATO plans to establish battle groups in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, with forces and equipment including drones, warplanes and tanks. But Stoltenberg said along with the defense buildup, the alliance was signaling its desire for dialogue and cooperation with Russia.

Meanwhile, separate tensions over whether Spain should refuel Russian warships bound for Syria were defused after Moscow withdrew its request.

"It's up to each nation to decide whether they provide supplies and refuel naval ships," Stoltenberg said, but at the same time, "we are concerned about [Russia's] potential use of this carrier group to increase airstrikes on Aleppo, exaggerating the humanitarian disaster, [the] catastrophe we already see in Aleppo."

Critics said refueling the ships would escalate indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the besieged Syrian city, where Russia was conducting airstrikes against rebel forces in support of Syria's government.