Nato defence ministers are expected to agree on a new framework to counter potential attacks by Russia as Moscow develops advanced weapon systems and deploys its military closer to the borders of the alliance’s member states.
It would upgrade existing defence plans to protect Nato from attacks in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, conceivably including nuclear weapons, hacking of computer networks or from space.
“If you have that kind of major conflict, it will require activity across the entire area of operations,” a senior US government official told Reuters. “Various things could happen at the same time, and that really requires holistic planning.”
There is no suggestion an attack is imminent, and Russia insists it has no aggressive intentions.
Nato defence ministers will meet on Thursday at a time of heightened tensions with Russia. The alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday that relations are “now at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War”. But he also said that Nato favoured dialogue with Russia.
Russia closed its mission to Nato on Monday and will remove the accreditation of the alliance’s staff at its office in Moscow. Earlier this month, Nato expelled eight Russian diplomats after accusing them of being intelligence officers.
In May, Russia amassed about 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, the highest number since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, according to western officials. In September, Russia used new combat robots in large military drills with its ally Belarus that alarmed Baltic allies.
Russia is also upgrading or replacing ageing Soviet military space systems to potentially attack satellites in orbit and developing artificial intelligence-based technologies to disrupt allied command systems. Moscow is also developing “super weapons".
Unveiled in 2018, the Russian upgrades include nuclear-capable hypersonic cruise missiles that could evade early-warning systems.
Moscow also warned Nato on Thursday that any move on Ukraine's potential membership of the bloc will have consequences.