by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg upon arrival at the European Council
I'm looking forward to meeting the EU Defence Ministers and High Representative Borrell. Let me first, welcome the decision on including Canada, Norway, and the United States into the PESCO project on military mobility. Non-EU allies play an essential role in protecting and defending Europe.
Just as we speak, we are deploying thousands of troops as part of a NATO exercise and we do that in Romania. And it demonstrates how we mobilize and exercise NATO troops, and also how we're able to deploy them across Europe.
And as part of this exercise, there are soldiers from the United Kingdom, from the United States, from Turkey, so it demonstrates also the importance of moving NATO troops quickly through Europe and that's also a reason why military mobility is so important.
We will also discuss Russia, and the pattern of aggressive Russian behaviour, from dangerous intelligence operations in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, but also the significant military build-up in and around Ukraine.
We have seen some reduction in the number of Russian troops, but tens of thousands remain, and we are also seeing that Russia has kept a lot of weapons…and equipment, and they're also imposing restrictions in the Black Sea, including restricting access to the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait, and therefore NATO needs to stay vigilant and closely monitor the developments.
Overall, there is a significant Russian presence, and there are many more Russian troops now, in and around Ukraine, than before the recent increase in tensions.
We will also discuss Afghanistan, I will update the Ministers on the NATO decision to end our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and the drawdown of troops is now underway.
We have sent a very clear message to the Taliban, that any attack on NATO troops will be met with a forceful response. The drawdown of the NATO troops, the end of the Resolute Support Mission, is not the end to our partnership with Afghanistan, it's actually opening up a new chapter and we are now looking into how we can continue to provide support. We are looking into ways to provide financial support, help with training and also support the international community in Afghanistan.
NATO has strongly supported the peace process, and a negotiated peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is the best way to maintain the achievements we have made together, over the last decades.