Nato troops in Poland
Nato is carrying out a large scale exercise in Poland, simulating a Russian attack on the country.EUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The American commander of US troops in Europe has admitted that Nato is unable to rapidly deploy large forces to Eastern Europe at the same pace that Russia can. Lt-Gen Ben Hodges' comments come as Nato carries out a large scale exercise in Poland, simulating a Russian attack on the country.

Speaking to BBC Hardtalk, Hodges said that it was "concerning" how Russia is able to deploy 20,000 troops and a lot of equipment to the border of a Nato country or to a country like Georgia or Ukraine. He added that Nato should create a "military Schengen zone" that would allow the 28 Nato countries freedom of movement, putting them on par with Russia who Hodges said has "freedom of movement on the interior lines" and the ability to move anywhere inside Russia as fast as they want.

Comparing Nato's speed versus Russia's, Hodges said: "The Russians are able to move huge formations and lots of equipment a long distance very fast. Three days' notification, we ought to be able to do that."

Hodges comments comes two days after Germany's Foreign Ministry lashed out at Nato, calling their military activity in Eastern Europe "warmongering". More than 31,000 troops from 24 nations are taking part in the Nato exercise between 7 and 17 June, designed to test Nato's ability to respond to a threat. However, Germany has said that the activity is only inflaming tensions with Russia.

Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier said: "What we shouldn't do now is inflame the situation further through sabre-rattling and warmongering. Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance's eastern border will bring security, is mistaken. We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation."

Tensions between Nato and Russia have remained high since Russia annexed Crimea during the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Nato has warned about aggressive behaviour by Russian warplanes in the Baltic region, while Russia has fiercely objected to Nato's operations close to their borders.