France said it plans to send troops to Romania as part of a future NATO mission, seeking to reassure the Black Sea nation amid tensions with Russia.

Romanian and French ministers reaffirmed that Europe was ready to impose massive sanctions on Russia should it attack Ukraine.
Romanian and French ministers reaffirmed that Europe was ready to impose massive sanctions on Russia should it attack Ukraine. (AP)

France's offer to send troops to Romania among wider plans to bolster NATO's ranks on the eastern flank have not been meant to provoke Russia, its foreign minister said, vowing to do everything to defuse tensions with Moscow.

Romanian and French ministers ministers held talks in Bucharest on Thursday with nine ministers from Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, including Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia as well as Ukraine, to discuss the crisis.

France said it also plans to send troops to Romania as part of a future NATO mission, seeking to reassure the Black Sea nation amid tensions with Russia.

They both reaffirmed that Europe was ready to impose massive sanctions on Russia should it attack Ukraine.

The United States said on Wednesday it will send nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania to reinforce Eastern European NATO allies in the face of what Washington describes as a Russian threat to invade Ukraine.

On Thursday, the Kremlin said the deployment of additional US troops in Eastern Europe was an escalation.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the aim was in fact to defuse the situation.

"I don't think one can say this is a provocation, to respond to the commitments we have in the framework of NATO," Le Drian told a news conference with his Romanian counterpart. 

"The fundamental subject now is to defuse tensions as quickly as possible and to do that you dissuade and discuss."

French President Emmanuel Macron was due to speak later on Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the third time this week.

READ MORE: Russia calls US troop deployment in Ukraine standoff 'destructive' step

Romania's growing security concerns

Romania has sought to address its own security concerns after Russia massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders, prompting fears of a conflict that could spill over Romania's 600-kilometre border with Ukraine.

"It must be said very clearly, if you compare allied presence on the eastern flank to the troops Russia has massed it is several times smaller so there is no question of an attempt to escalate tensions," Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said, adding France could lead a NATO battle group which would include other allies.

READ MORE: US approves sending troops to Eastern Europe in coming days

Offering to be the lead

NATO currently has a multinational land force of up to 4,000 troops in Romania, a member since 2004. 

The United States also has soldiers stationed at separate bases in Romania and in Bulgaria.

French officials said the objective would be to create a mission similar to those in the Baltics that have a lead nation coordinating land, sea and maritime assets.

Paris has offered to be the lead nation of the mission, which could see about 1,000 troops from various countries.

Details will be discussed at the next NATO defence ministers meeting in mid-February. 

While a political decision could be made then, deploying forces would take some time, diplomats said.

READ MORE: Putin: Russia will be dragged into war if Ukraine joins NATO

Source: Reuters