The Czech Republic has thrown its weight behind Polish calls for permanent Nato bases in central and eastern Europe to counter the threat posed by Russia.
Poland has been pushing hard for the alliance to move troops east, and may have secured British support for this in return for backing the UK-European Union reform agreement struck last week.
Tomas Prouza, the Czech secretary of state for Europe, said the Czech Republic would “totally support Poland in its efforts to secure permanent Nato bases”.
He said Prague would back Poland in its efforts to get Nato troops east of the River Odra, which straddles the Polish-German border, at a key alliance summit due to be held in Warsaw in July.
The Polish government is expected to make the most of its position as host to argue that Nato has to do more to address what it regards as a growing threat posed by Russia – Poland’s historical foe – to European security.
Poland has looked on with alarm at Russia’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its apparent deployment of troops and armour to the war in eastern Ukraine. Warsaw has also been frustrated with what it perceives as a failure by some Nato countries to take the threat seriously, or by their apparent desire to place good bilateral ties with Moscow before collective security.
The three Baltic states, which were once invaded and absorbed into the Soviet Union, have also been pressing for an enhanced Nato presence in the region, citing increased Russian military activity on their borders and in their airspace.
So far Nato has been reluctant to talk about a permanent presence amid fears it could trigger a Cold-War style arms race in Europe, with both sides spending more on weapons while at the same time forming two antagonist armed camps separated by just a few miles.
Moscow has already warned Nato that it will take “reciprocal steps” if the alliance moves troops and hardware near the Russian border.
Nato has preferred to talk about a “persistent” presence on its eastern flank, with a number of small outposts and troops and equipment based on a rotational presence.