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BRUSSELS — NATO's secretary general, the Norwegian Jens Stoltenberg, said on Thursday that he is prepared to send ground forces to Turkey wherever they're needed "to deter and defend against threats."

During his news conference at a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, Stoltenberg said that the 28 allies have given the green light to the completed plan for an enhanced NATO Response Force.

"We now have everything in place to make the Response Force stronger, faster and more capable. This force will count up to 40,000 troops. That's twice as many troops as the current level of troops in the NATO Response Force," Stoltenberg said. "NATO will defend you. NATO is on the ground. NATO is ready."

It is a clear message not only for eastern allies but also for southern allies, specifically Turkey.

"This is not just about the east. We face threats from many directions, and in many different forms. Our military commanders have confirmed that we already have what we need to deploy NATO Response Force to the South," Stoltenberg said in his initial statement.

Stoltenberg also condemned as "unacceptable" the recent violations of Turkish airspace by Russian fighters. He criticized the "escalation of Russian military activity in Syria," saying it raises "serious concerns.

Asked about the collective defense of Turkey, Stoltenberg said: "Turkey is a strong ally, our second strongest army."

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