NATO plans more support for east Europeans worried by Crimea

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By Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO will decide new steps on Tuesday to reinforce eastern European countries worried by Russia's annexation of Crimea, and on how to bolster Ukraine's armed forces. Diplomats said NATO foreign ministers will look at options ranging from stepped-up military exercises and sending more forces to eastern members states, to the permanent basing of alliance forces there - a step Moscow would view as provocative. Ministers from the 28 alliance members are meeting in Brussels for the first time since Russia's military occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region caused the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War. While the United States and its allies have made clear they will not intervene militarily in Ukraine, which does not belong to NATO, they have scrambled to reassure anxious NATO members in eastern Europe, particularly ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics, that they are sheltered by the alliance's security umbrella.