The North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the first time in its history has activated its NATO Response Force (NRF) as it reacts to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the coalition announced late Friday.
President Biden has stressed, however, that U.S. troops will not go to Ukraine as it is not a member of the NATO alliance.
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“We have activated NATO’s defense plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure Alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces,” NATO heads of state and government said in a joint statement released after the alliance held a virtual summit.
“We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the Alliance,” the release said. “We will make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defense across the Alliance, now and in the future.”
The leaders stressed the moves “are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”
NATO, in its mission, says if diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under the collective defence clause of NATO’s founding treaty – Article 5 of the Washington Treaty or under a United Nations mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations.
Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods have been hit since the invasion began Thursday with air and missile strikes and Russian troops entering Ukraine from the north, east and south, the Associated Press reports.
Read: Putin’s war in Ukraine ‘should concern every person on Earth’: Why political observers say the Russian invasion may foretell an era of global disorder
The extraordinary NATO move marks the first time it has activated the NRF, a multinational force comprised of around 40,000 land, air, maritime and special operations personnel the alliance can deploy on short notice as needed. All 30 members of NATO must agree to activate the force.
The Pentagon in January put 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened alert for such a mission, and with the NRF now activated, those troops could soon be ordered to Europe to help bolster NATO countries near Ukraine.