NATO announces 'historic' deployment of forces to bolster Eastern Europe after Ukraine invasion

WION Web Team
Brussels, Belgium Updated: Feb 26, 2022, 07:11 PM(IST)

Tanks uploaded on military truck platforms as a part of additional British troops and military equipment arrive at Estonia's NATO Battle Group base in Tapa, Estonia Photograph:( Reuters )

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The 40,000 troops strong NATO Response Force is designed to be ready 365 days a year to respond within two or three days when a security crisis emerges

The NATO alliance is deploying its rapid response force for the first time ever to bolster its eastern flank in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

In response to Europe’s biggest security crisis in decades, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We are now deploying the NATO Response Force for the first time in a collective defence context. We speak about thousands of troops. We speak about air and maritime capabilities.”

The 40,000 troops strong NATO Response Force is designed to be ready 365 days a year to respond within two or three days when a security crisis emerges.

“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,” Stoltenberg said.

Parts of a spearhead unit known in NATO jargon as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, which is currently led by France, will also be sent. Its main brigade of about 5,000 troops now consists of a joint Franco-German unit based in Lille, France with contributions from Spain, Portugal, and Poland.

The announcement came after NATO members, ranging from Russia’s neighbour Estonia in the north down around the west of conflict-hit Ukraine to Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast, triggered urgent consultations Thursday about their security amid concerns from the invasion.

The world’s biggest security organization previously had around 5,000 troops stationed in the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and Poland, but has significantly beefed up its defenses over the past three months.

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Germany said Friday that it plans to deploy troops and a Patriot anti-missile system to Slovakia, which is a member of NATO and one of the countries to have triggered the urgent consultations, as part of an “enhanced vigilance activity battlegroup.”

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, US General Tod D. Wolters, said the new contributions “represent a flexible, combat credible force that can be employed in multiple ways and we are utilising fully their inherent agility.”

NATO began beefing up its defences in northeastern Europe after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Recently, some members have also sent troops, aircraft, and warships to the Black Sea region, near allies Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Created in 2002 to accelerate NATO's response capability, the force consists of land, air, sea, and special operation forces and is intended to respond to a wide gamut of challenges, including disaster relief and evacuations. 

In addition to exercises, the Response Force has so far carried out security missions, such as to the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, and contributed to disaster relief, including after Hurricane Katrina in the United States and a devastating earthquake in Pakistan.

In August 2021, elements of the force also supported the evacuation and relocation of Afghans who worked alongside NATO and their families.

(With inputs from agencies)

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