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‘Hundreds of thousands’ of NATO troops on heightened alert

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (U.S. State Department photo/Released)
March 23, 2022

“Hundreds of thousands” of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allied troops were on heightened alert across the entire alliance on Wednesday, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

In a Wednesday press conference, Stoltenberg said the alliance has responded to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine by giving “strong support for Ukraine” and imposing “unprecedented costs for Russia.”

“NATO has acted with speed and unity to protect and defend all Allies,” Stoltenberg continued. “There are now hundreds of thousands of Allied troops at heightened readiness across the Alliance. One hundred thousand U.S. troops in Europe and 40,000 forces under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the alliance, all backed by major air and naval power, including five carrier strike groups in the High North and in the Mediterranean.”

Stoltenberg did not specify whether this heightened alert is a part of a new NATO posture or one the alliance has maintained throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said NATO will hold a summit on Thursday, where he expects the alliance will strengthen its posture across all domains, including “major increases to our forces in the eastern part of the Alliance on land, in the air, and at sea.”

“The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, along with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland,” Stoltenberg said. “This means that we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups all along the eastern flank from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”

Stoltenberg said he expects the alliance will also agree to send more military support to Ukraine.

“In the last months, Allies have stepped up military support, providing anti-tank and air defence systems, drones, fuel and ammunition as well as financial aid and hosting millions of refugees,” he said. “Tomorrow, I expect Allies will agree to provide additional support, including cybersecurity assistance as well as equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.”

Stoltenberg said he anticipates NATO will also provide added protection to allied nations at risk if Russia’s invasion extends beyond Ukraine.

“We are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the war does not escalate beyond Ukraine, and become a conflict between NATO and Russia,” he said. “This would cause even more death and even more destruction. I also expect we will agree to step up tailored support for other partners at risk from Russian pressure, including Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Stoltenberg said NATO would also challenge China for its “political support” of Russia throughout the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of independent nations to choose their own path. China has provided Russia with political support, including by spreading blatant lies and disinformation and Allies are concerned that China could provide material support for the Russian invasion,” Stoltenberg said. “I expect leaders will call on China to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council, refrain from supporting Russia’s war effort and join the rest of the world in calling for an immediate, peaceful end to this war.”