NATO to Deploy Rapid Response Force to Protect Allies Near Russia-Ukraine

NATO is deploying some of its combat-ready response force to help protect member nations near Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.

"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," he said.

Stoltenberg made the announcement during a news conference, where he also said that NATO would continue to send weapons to Ukraine.

This will be the first time the organization has ever mobilized its NATO Defense Force (NRF) "in the context of collective defense," Stoltenberg said at the news conference.

The NRF is described on the NATO website as "a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that the Alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed."

The NRF has been activated in the past for purposes other than defending NATO, such as in August of 2021 to help the evacuation and relocation of Afghans, as well as their families, who aided NATO.

Stoltenberg said that the Kremlin's objectives in launching the attack were larger than Ukraine.

NATO Deploying Forces
NATO is deploying some of its combat-ready response force to help protect member nations near Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday. Above, Stoltenberg gives his speech at the 2022 Munich Security Conference on February 19, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Alexandra Beier/Getty Images

"Russia has demanded legally binding agreements to renounce further NATO enlargement and to remove troops and infrastructure from allies that joined after 1997," he said. "We are facing a new normal in European security where Russia openly contests the European security order and uses force to pursue its objectives."

He added that the world will hold Russia and Belarus, which is reportedly supporting Russia's mission in Ukraine, "accountable for their actions."

"President Putin's decision to pursue his aggression against Ukraine is a terrible strategic mistake for which Russia will pay a severe price for years to come," Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg did not go into specific detail on what weapons NATO allies are providing to Ukraine, apart from saying they include "air defense systems" and "different types of equipment."

As for the NRF elements being deployed, Stoltenberg did not provide exact figures but said they were talking about thousands of troops, as well as "air and maritime capabilities."

The U.S. has assigned thousands of troops to the NRF, he said.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the "deployment of ground and air forces stationed in Europe to the eastern flank" and for "additional U.S. force capabilities to deploy to Germany as part of NATO's response."

He clarified that U.S. troops are not being sent to Europe to fight within Ukraine's borders but to help defend NATO.

Update 2/25/22, 2:59 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.