THERE is still no sign that Russia has withdrawn troops from the Ukranian border, despite claims from Moscow that troops would return to their bases, Nato has said. 

The alliance's secretary general said they will now consider establishing new battle groups in Europe to tackle the “new normal” of Russian aggression.

Jens Stoltenberg, former Prime Minister of Norway, said defence ministers are “gravely concerned” by Russia’s military build up at the border with Ukraine, estimated to be “well over 100,000 troops” and “a lot” of heavy equipment.

Stoltenberg told journalists at a press conference that the “massive invasion force” is the biggest seen in Europe since the Cold War, and that it still hasn't seen any signs of troops being pulled back from the border despite contrary claims from Moscow.

READ MORE: 'Hard to imagine' UK won't honour Scots' pension rights post-indy

Nato defence ministers, including the UK’s Ben Wallace, took part in the meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday.

Stoltenberg opened the press conference by stating that the situation in Ukraine demonstrates a “crisis in European security”.

He added: “Moscow has made it clear that it is prepared to contest the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decades and to do so by using force. I regret to say that this is the new normal in Europe.

“Therefore today, ministers decided to develop options for further strengthening Nato's deterrence and defence, including to consider establishing new Nato battle groups in Central and Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and they welcomed the offer by France to lead such a battle group in Romania.

The National:

Nato defence ministers after Wednesday's meeting in Brussels

“Our military commanders will now work on the details and report back within weeks.”

There are currently four battle groups, part of Nato’s enhanced forward presence, in eastern Europe. The UK leads a battlegroup in Estonia, Canada leads one in Latvia, Germany in Lithuania and the United States in Poland.

Asked to expand on his use of the phrase of the “new normal” by the BBC, Stoltenberg said that Russia has “demonstrated that it really is willing to contest some of the fundamental principles for our security, the right for every nation to choose his own path”.

He continued: “And also, of course, the right for Nato allies to defend and protect each other.

“They actually suggested a legally binding treaty violating those principles, and they have used force, the biggest concentration of combat force since the end of the Cold War, to underpin and to try to intimidate other countries in Europe to invite respect or to accept the Russian demands.

READ MORE: Michelle Ballantyne quits as Scots head of Nigel Farage's Reform Party

“So this is a normal, a new normal, which is violating core principles which have been important for the security and the stability of Europe for decades.”

Stoltenberg added that he doesn’t know what will happen next but added that: “Russia has demonstrated will to use force to try to coerce other countries and to try to change some fundamental principles that are important for our shared security.

“That's the reason why we need to also consider more longer term adjustments of Nato's posture in the East. I will not preempt any final decision.”

Asked if there was any evidence that a cyber attack on Ukraine on Tuesday, which hit it's defence ministry, could be linked to Russia or seen as the start of a larger military campaign, Stoltenberg said Nato had not seen any evidence of Russian de-escelation.

He added: "What we see on the ground is no withdrawal of troops, unfortunately, but actually what we see is that Russian troops are moving into position and we saw the cyber attack and these are the kinds of actions and interest that we expect will come in advance or bigger military intervention into Ukraine."

Stoltenberg said Russia indicating a willingness to engage in diplomacy was cause for “cautious optimism” but warned of a “paradox”, saying Russian troops are “moving into position”.

The National:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also attended the meeting in Brussels 

He said: “The paradox is that while of course this is something we think is something we should actually take seriously and see if it is possible to make progress on the diplomatic track, what we see on the ground is no withdrawal of troops and forces, equipment, but actually what we see is that Russian troops are moving into position and we saw the cyber attack.

“And these are the kinds of actions and measures that we expect will come in advance of a bigger military intervention into Ukraine. So of course this is of concern, and that’s the reason why we continue to call on Russia to de-escalate and to follow up on what they say, to engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts.”

The secretary-general added that Nato’s actions are defensive and not a threat to Russia, but said if the country uses force against Ukraine it will “come with a high price”, including sanctions.

READ MORE: Ukrainians back at work but ‘not naive about seriousness of situation’

In a joint statement released by defence ministers on Wednesday, the sentiment was echoed.

The ministers said: “Nato remains committed to the foundational principles underpinning European security, including that each nation has the right to choose its own security arrangements.

“We reaffirm our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

“As stated previously, any further Russian aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and carry a high price. Nato will continue to closely co-ordinate with relevant stakeholders and other international organisations including the EU.”