Russia/Ukraine: NATO activates 40,000 Response Force

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El presidente ucraniano Volodymyr Zelenskyy, al centro, saluda a un soldado durante su visita a la conflictiva región de Donbas, en el este de Ucrania, el jueves 8 de abril de 2021. (Oficina Presidencial de Prensa de Ucrania vía AP)

As Russia presses ahead with its onslaught in Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) has activated its Response Force as a defensive measure, in a historic first.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday the bloc had activated defence plans and “as a result … are deploying elements of the Nato Response Force on land, at sea and in the air”. This includes a multinational force consisting of thousands more troops and over 100 jets put on high alert in 30 locations that can deploy quickly in support of allied nations neighbouring Russia and 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,” said Stoltenberg.

However, this does not entail that Nato troops will go into Ukraine, which is not a member. The move comes amid widespread criticism of the 27-member bloc for inaction in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to activate the response force was made following urgent consultations that involved US President Joe Biden and other Nato leaders. The 40,000-strong force has not yet deployed but is on standby. The move is largely to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank that their security is guaranteed as Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine closes in on the capital Kyiv.

“This is an historic moment and the very first time the Alliance has employed these high readiness forces in a deterrence and defense role,” said Nato Supreme Allied Commander General Tod Wolters, as quoted by CNN.