NATO leaders decided on Thursday to reset the alliance's long-term defense posture at the eastern flank and to send further support to embattled Ukraine.
“Today, NATO leaders agreed to reset our deterrence and defense for the longer term to face a new security reality,” NATO chief Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters following an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to address Russia’s month-old war on Ukraine, squarely on the alliance’s doorstep.
He explained that NATO will have “substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance at higher readiness,” including more pre-positioned equipment and supplies on the ground, more aircraft and strengthened air and missile defense systems, as well as more ship carriers, submarines, and a significant numbers of combat ships on a permanent basis.
NATO will also reinforce its cyber defense and work to ensure better interoperability between national capabilities, he said.
The leaders tasked military commanders to work on plans, and the final decision is due at a NATO summit in Madrid this June.
The NATO allies also agreed to send further aid to Ukraine, including cybersecurity assistance, medical supplies, and protective equipment against biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear threats.
Goal: Preventing escalation
Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s support for Ukraine in face of Russian attacks but stressed that it is NATO’s “responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate” beyond Ukraine’s borders because “this would be even more dangerous and more devastating.”
The leaders also agreed to increase support for partner countries at risk of Russian interference and threats, such as Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in order to “uphold their sovereignty and strengthen their resilience,” he added.
Responding to unconfirmed media reports, the heads of state and government also called on China to refrain from providing “economic or military support for the Russian invasion” and to join the rest of the world in condemning the war.
The Russia-Ukraine war, which began on Feb. 24, has met international outrage with the EU, US, and UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow
At least 977 civilians have been killed so far in Ukraine and 1,594 injured, according to UN estimates, while cautioning that the true toll is likely far higher.
Over 3.6 million Ukrainians have also fled to the neighboring countries, with millions more internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.