European leaders have defended the decision by NATO to station thousands of troops in Baltic nations and Eastern Europe amid a perceived heightened threat from Russia, calling the decision "realistic" rather than punitive.
At a NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland last Friday, the military alliance formally agreed to deploy four battalions with a total of 3,000 to 4,000 troops to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland on a rotational basis.
The move is designed to reassure those countries -- all of which are former Soviet states or satellite states with sizeable pro-Russian minorities -- that are concerned that Russia could be looking to increase its influence and territorial reach abroad. Russia hit back at the deployments, calling them the result of "anti-Russian hysteria."
European leaders, and particularly those in countries worrying about Russia's seemingly intentional provocations - such as reported brief incursions into their territorial airspace or waters by the Russian military – told CNBC on the sidelines of the NATO summit that the alliance's action was necessary.