NATO announced Friday that it has begun deploying elements of its Response Force to the eastern part of the Alliance, for the first time in the context of collective defense, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“There must be no space for miscalculation or misunderstanding. We will do what it takes to protect and defend every Ally. And every inch of NATO territory,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of a videoconference summit of alliance leaders, called urgently in the face of Moscow’s aggression against its neighbor.
The summit follows Thursday’s ambassador-level meeting of the North Atlantic Council, at which eight eastern countries invoked Article 4 of the Alliance’s founding treaty, which provides for consultations when any of the allies feel their territorial integrity is threatened.
The allies then decided to activate NATO’s defense plans, which allows them to be able to deploy capabilities, including the Response Force, where needed.
“We have to take this seriously. And that’s exactly why we are now deploying the NATO Response Force, for the first time in an collective defence context. And we speak about thousands of troops. We speak about air and maritime capabilities. They are only actually part of the standing naval groups,” Stoltenberg explained, adding that these are American and European troops, especially from France and Germany.
“We must stand ready to do more. Even if it means we have to pay a price. Because we are in this for the long haul,” he commented, referring to the heavy economic sanctions that the allies and the European Union are imposing on Russia for its behavior.
The allied leaders also approved a statement today in which they warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine is a “terrible strategic mistake” for which their country will pay ” a severe preice for years to come,” both economically and politically.
They assured that they will continue to make “the necessary deployments” to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defense throughout the Alliance, now and in the future.
Stoltenberg warned that “the Kremlin’s objectives are not limited to Ukraine,” and recalled that Moscow had asked for binding guarantees that the Alliance would not expand further and return its troops and weaponry to its 1997 borders, at which time several former Soviet countries joined.
Invited to today’s summit were the presidents of the European Union institutions, as well as Finland and Sweden, because “this crisis affects us all,” Stoltenberg stressed.