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The Defense Department welcomes the opportunity to discuss NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s proposal to create an alliance rapid reaction force, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Tuesday. However, Kirby could not say what, if any, part the US military would play in that force, which would be deployed into Eastern Europe to counter Russia’s threats to Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc nations. Rasmussen’s proposal will be discussed at the NATO summit convening Thursday in Wales, he added. “We continue to work with our allies on how to contribute to security in Europe,” said Kirby, who also restated the US’ “commitment” to the Article 5 pledge of mutual defense of NATO members. When told that Russia has called creation of the NATO reaction force “provocative,” Kirby said what was “provocative” was the presence of about 1,000 Russian special forces and other troops inside Ukraine supporting Russian separatists and 10,000 “very ready” forces near the border. He said it was “entirely responsible” for NATO to take steps to improve security for alliance members. Kirby noted that the US has its own rapid response force, of which a unit of the Army’s First Cavalry Division is set to deploy into Europe. (Kirby transcript) (Rasmussen transcript)