(QHA) -

NATO is to create a 4,000-strong "spearhead" high-readiness force that can be deployed rapidly in eastern Europe and the Baltic states to help protect member nations against potential Russian aggression, according to NATO officials.

Leaders from the 28 NATO countries are expected to approve the plan at the alliance's summit in Wales when the Ukraine crisis tops the agenda on Friday, The Guardian reports.

NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described it as a mixture of regular troops and special forces that could "travel light but strike hard". It would be supported by air and naval forces as needed.

"It is so that we are ready should something nasty happen," a senior NATO official said.

Since Crimean annexation peninsula by Russia in March, Poland and other east European and Baltic state members of NATO have demanded the alliance take a more active and high-profile role in their defence.

QHA