NATO Puts Forces on Standby, Deploys Ships and Fighter Jets Near Russia

NATO announced it has put forces on standby and deployed additional ships and fighter jets to its bases in Eastern Europe, as tensions soar over Russia's military build-up by Ukraine.

In a press release on Monday morning, NATO said the move will reinforce allied deterrence and defense.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will "continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance."

"I welcome Allies contributing additional forces," Stoltenberg said in a statement. "We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence."

According to the release, Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and is prepared to deploy four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania.

Spain is sending ships to join NATO naval forces and is considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria, France is prepared to send troops to Romania, and from April, the Netherlands is sending two F-35 fighter aircraft to Bulgaria. 

The Netherlands is also putting a ship and land-based units on standby for NATO's Response Force, the alliance said.

"The United States has also made clear that it is considering increasing its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance," it added.

According to the Interfax news agency, Russian lawmaker Andrei Kartapolov said on Monday that Russia will "respond appropriately" if the White House deploys additional troops in the Baltic region and Eastern Europe.

Kartapolov leads the Russian parliament's defense committee, and made the remarks amid reports that President Joe Biden is weighing deploying thousands of troops to NATO allies.

"Even as we're engaged in diplomacy, we are very much focused on building up defense, building up deterrence," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday morning.

"NATO itself will continue to be reinforced in a significant way if Russia commits renewed acts of aggression. All of that is on the table."

Western officials estimate Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border—Ukrainian officials estimated as many as 127,000—as fears mount over a Moscow-led invasion.

The United States has warned against travel to Ukraine and Russia because of "potential for harassment against US citizens." Non-essential U.S. embassy staff have been authorized to leave Ukraine, while families of Kyiv embassy staffers have been ordered to leave.

The decision was made out of an "abundance of caution," state department officials said.

Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko responded by calling the decision "premature" and a "display of excessive caution."

Volunteer Defence Unit Trains In Kyiv
Civilian participants in a Kyiv Territorial Defense unit train in a forest on January 22, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. NATO has deployed additional ships and fighter jets to its bases in Eastern Europe amid escalating Russia-Ukraine tensions. Sean Gallup/Getty Images