Italy to send 140 troops to NATO mission in Latvia

NATOItaly will send about 140 troops to join a NATO mission in Latvia set up to boost defenses against a possible Russian attack, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Friday.

The Western defense alliance agreed in July to deploy military forces in the Baltic states and eastern Poland for the first time and increase air and sea patrols, to reassure its allies after Russia seized Crimea from neighboring Ukraine. [L8N19U0PP]

During a visit to Rome by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Gentiloni said Italy would send the troops to join a Canadian-led force in Latvia. They will probably be deployed in the spring of 2017, a foreign ministry official said.

The decision “is not part of a policy of aggression towards Russia, but one of reassurance and defense of our borders as an Atlantic alliance,” Gentiloni added.

Italy will lead an ultra-rapid action task force in the former Soviet republic, a “spearhead” which will be equipped to intervene within five days in an emergency, Stoltenberg told Italian newspaper La Stampa.

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