Britain ready to commit 3,500 troops to new NATO force

NEWPORT, United Kingdom - Britain could contribute 3,500 troops to a NATO rapid response force designed to meet new threats highlighted by the Ukraine crisis and Islamic State gains in Syria and Iraq, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday.

Cameron said the alliance, set up in 1949 to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union, had to show that its Article 5 blanket security guarantee was still valid.

"As Russia tramples illegally over Ukraine, we must reassure our Eastern European members that we will always uphold our Article 5 commitments," Cameron told the second day of a NATO summit. To do that, NATO "must be able to act more quickly," he said, hoping that the 28 allies would agree to set up a "spearhead force deployable anywhere in the world in just 2 to 5 days."

This spearhead would be part of a reformed NATO Response Force headquartered in Poland, with pre-positioned equipment and exercising frequently to ensure its readiness. "If we can agree this, the UK will contribute 3,500 personnel," he added.

The two-day NATO summit has been billed as the most important since the end of the Cold War.

The upgraded rapid reaction force is meant to both reassure former Soviet satellites such as Poland and the Baltic states who have been rattled by Russia's actions in Ukraine and to show the alliance is measuring up to new threats, especially in a volatile Middle East.