NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance will deploy parts of its combat-ready response force to reassure Eastern member countries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
"We are now deploying the NATO response force for the first time in the context of collective defense," Stoltenberg told a news conference on February 25 following a virtual NATO summit.
“Russia has shattered peace on the European continent. What we have warned against for months has come to pass, despite all of our efforts to find a diplomatic solution,” Stoltenberg said as he opened the summit.
“Moscow bears sole responsibility for the deliberate, cold-blooded, and long-planned invasion,” he added.
He did not say how many troops from the NATO response force would be deployed but referred to “thousands” and confirmed that the move would involve land, sea, and air power.
In addition, parts of a force known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is currently led by France, will also be sent.
NATO previously had around 5,000 troops stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland but has significantly increased its defenses in the countries over the past three months.
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the decision to activate the NATO response force and said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “failed in his goal of dividing the West.”
NATO is “as united and resolute as it’s ever been, and NATO will maintain its Open Door to those European states who share our values and who one day may seek to join our Alliance,” Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.
After participating in the summit, Biden said he spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I commended the brave actions of the Ukrainian people who were fighting to defend their country,” Biden said in the statement. “I also conveyed ongoing economic, humanitarian, and security support being provided by the United States as well as our continued efforts to rally other countries to provide similar assistance.”
The United States and some of NATO’s other 29 members are supplying a variety of weapons to Ukraine, and Stoltenberg said that would continue. He said weapons they would supply include air defenses.
But NATO has said it won’t launch any military action in support of Ukraine, which is a close partner of the alliance but not a member.
The U.S. military said on February 24 that it is sending 7,000 troops to Europe in addition to 5,000 recently deployed.