NATO Activates Defense Plans In Response To Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gives a statement on Russia's attack on Ukraine.
Credit: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

LONDON—NATO has activated its defense plans and given more authority to military commanders in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The alliance is planning to deploy more military equipment to reinforce Eastern European countries, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists following a meeting of the North Atlantic Council. 

He said the invasion was “a grave moment for the security of Europe,” and a “brutal act of war.” 

“Peace in our continent has been shattered,” Stoltenberg said. “We now have war in Europe, on a scale and of a type we thought belonged to history.” 

The attacks have prompted a joint request from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia to hold urgent consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty over concerns about the potential security impact of the invasion on their own borders. 

Stoltenberg said the activation of the defense plans would allow much quicker deployment of troops and equipment. NATO forces now have 100 aircraft on standby and 120 allied ships are now at sea, arrayed from the High North to the Mediterranean, Stoltenberg said. 

Recent days have seen the forward deployment of U.S. F-35s from Germany, while the Netherlands has brought forward a planned F-35 deployment to Bulgaria which was planned for April and May. The Netherlands defense ministry confirmed that the aircraft had already arrived in-country.  

Elsewhere across the alliance, thousands of troops were being put on standby for possible deployment to Eastern Europe. 

Stoltenberg would not say whether NATO’s defense plans had been previously activated, stating he was not clear if previous activations had been made public. 

Russian forces launched a multi-pronged attack into Ukraine in the early hours of Feb. 24 with an initial bombardment of ballistic and cruise missiles, followed by an armoured push with forces crossing in from the Donbas region, Crimea and neighboring Belarus.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the operation with a lengthy address, saying the goal was to “demilitarize” Ukraine and roll-back the encroachment of NATO forces and allies on Russia’s borders. 

Stoltenberg said Russia was “using force to try to rewrite history,” and “deny Ukraine its free and independent path.” 

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.