(The hill) – For the first time in its history, NATO is stepping up its NATO Response Force (NRF) in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We have stepped up NATO’s defense plans to prepare for a number of emergencies and to ensure the security of Allied territory, including through the use of our response forces,” said NATO Heads of State and Government. in a joint statement issued Friday after the alliance held a virtual summit.
“We are now making significant additional defensive deployments in the eastern part of the Alliance. We will do our utmost to provide strong and reliable deterrence and protection throughout the Alliance now and in the future. ”
The leaders stressed that these steps “are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalating.”
This extraordinary move marks the first time NATO has stepped up the NRF, a multinational force consisting of about 40,000 ground, air, naval and special operations that the Alliance can deploy in a short time as needed. All 30 NATO members must agree to join forces, which they did on Thursday.
The Pentagon in January, 8,500 U.S. troops were put on high alert for such a mission, and now activated by the NRC, these troops may soon be sent to Europe to help strengthen NATO countries near Ukraine. President Biden however, he stressed that they would not go to Ukraine because it was not a member of the alliance.
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander-in-Chief, General Todd Walters, the head of the NRF, called the revitalization a “historic moment,” the statement said.
“They are a flexible, reliable combat force that can be used in a variety of ways, and we are making full use of their inherent dexterity,” Walters said. “These deterrents are smart and increase our speed, empathy and ability to protect and defend the one billion citizens we have vowed to protect.”
The forces are still on standby and not yet deployed.
In addition, NATO “has deployed defensive ground and air forces in the eastern part of the alliance, as well as naval forces in the NATO zone,” the statement said.
The Alliance also reaffirmed its “unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” and promised to continue “political and practical support” for its government.
Speaking to reporters after the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the United States, Canada and European allies had deployed “thousands more troops in the eastern part of the alliance”, with more than 100 aircraft and 120 ships operating in high alert for more than 30 places.
Stoltenberg also again called on Russia to stop attacking Ukraine.
“We call on Russia to end this senseless war, stop the assaults immediately, withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and return to the path of dialogue and turn away from aggression,” he said.
He warned that the alliance was faced with a new normal European security and that “the world will hold Russia and Belarus accountable for their actions – Russia as an aggressor, Belarus as a facilitator.”
The United States has already deployed or transported approximately 15,000 U.S. troops to locations in Germany, Romania, and Poland. Russia President of Russia Vladimir Putin early Thursday launched a military operation in Ukraine. Since then, hundreds of Ukrainian citizens have been killed or injured.