Nato chiefs, thrown into a panic by fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin might attack the West, are scrambling to put together a force of 300,000 troops which they can put on ‘high alert’.
Relations between Russia and the West have plunged in the last year, with Moscow’s insistence on backing its Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, at all costs leading to serious tension with the US, Britain and France.
Most Nato members cut their defence spending dramatically since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 but Russia has been bolstering its military capabilities, holding parades involving more than 100,000 troops each year.
Moscow has been throwing its weight around in recent years – in 2008 Russian troops humiliated the Georgians and in turn the White House by invading South Ossetia and Abkhazia in support of pro-Moscow rebels.
Then in 2014 Russia annexed Crimea and supported ethnic Russian rebels in the eastern Ukraine.
President Obama’s ‘Russian reset’ policy, which was designed to improve relations with Moscow, has looked increasingly like a policy of appeasement.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been accused of attempting to interfere with the US election process by hacking into the emails of senior members of the Democratic party and recently moved the Iskander nuclear-capable missiles into the Kaliningrad enclave, on the borders with Poland.
But Nato members like Estonia, Poland and Romania, who are feeling increasingly threatened by Moscow, are now being promised a rapid deployment force.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Times this week: ‘We have also seen Russia using propaganda in Europe among Nato allies and that is exactly the reason why Nato is responding. We are responding with the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
‘We have seen Russia being much more active in many different ways.
‘We have seen a more assertive Russia implementing a substantial military build-up over many years; tripling defence spending since 2000 in real terms; developing new military capabilities; exercising their forces and using military force against neighbours,’ added Mr Stoltenberg.
Britain’s permanent representative to Nato, Sir Adam Thomson, told The Times it would currently take Nato six months to deploy a force of 300,000, which was simply too slow.
At the weekend British military intelligence officers issued a warning over a new Russian ‘super tank’ which they claim is far superior to anything which is available to Nato.
The document claims that Britain’s Challenger II main battle tank could be overpowered by the Kremlin’s new Armata tank.
Officials believe the new Russian tank is ‘revolutionary’ and blames the government for failing to provide a proper response.
The Russians showed off their new Armata tank at the annual May Day parade.
Intelligence experts believe the new Russian tank has a lower profile than Western heavy armour, is faster and lighter.
The turret has the ability to self-load its ammunition, including high explosive and armour piercing rounds. It also has the ability to fire anti-tank missiles.
The Armata is the first totally new Russian tank since the introduction of the T-72 in 1973 and would be crucial to any Russian military offensive.
The crew of three is smaller than most Nato tanks who normally have four people on board.
The vehicle’s hull is made from steel, ceramics and composite materials. It is also protected by explosive reactive armour.
The tank’s 125mm main gun loads itself an is capable of firing anti-tank missiles.
The missiles have a range of approximately five miles.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said recently: ‘The truth is, however, that Russia is not going to attack anyone, that’s ridiculous.’
He added: ‘Russia values its independence and own identity
‘We don’t want world domination or expansion or confrontation with anyone.’
Putin’s assurance came as Russia launched a new super stealth submarine which will be deployed to the Black Sea.
Last month Putin ordered the deployment of the aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean to continue his was war in support of Bashar Al-Assad.