Spain has decided to send warships to join NATO naval forces in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea as tensions rise in the region due to the Russian army’s position on the border with Ukraine, Defense Minister Margarita Robles told Reuters on Thursday .

A maritime mine detector is already on its way, and a frigate will arrive in three to four days, Robles told reporters. The Madrid government is also considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria, she said.

Russia cannot tell any country what to do, so NATO will protect and defend the sovereignty of any country that can, or wants to join NATO, “Robles said.

Spain prefers an “exclusively diplomatic response” to resolving the conflict, she added.

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Spain’s contribution to NATO’s military deployment in Eastern Europe comes after Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed a coordinated response to Russia’s threat to Ukraine at a meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops on its borders with Ukraine, and Western states fear that Moscow is planning a new attack on the country it invaded in 2014.

The Kremlin denies planning an attack, but says it could take unspecified military action if a list of requirements is not met, including a promise by NATO never to admit Ukraine as a member.

Western officials, diplomats and former officials told Reuters this week that NATO – created in 1949 to deter the Soviet threat – had been forced to consider reinforcements that went against Putin’s call for the alliance not to extend further east.

Authorities in Denmark have also said they will send a frigate to the Baltic Sea this week, and French President Emmanuel Macron has offered to send troops to Romania.

Other troop decisions could be made at the NATO summit in Madrid in June, diplomats and officials said.

Editor: Liviu Cojan

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