NATO activates defence plans after Russian act of war in Ukraine

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg says commanders will now have more authority to deploy troops.

NATO's military commanders have been granted more authority to deploy forces "wherever it is needed" following Russia's latest offensive into Ukraine.

Speaking at a press conference, Jens Stoltenberg said defence plans were now in place – with more than 100 jets on standby and 120 allied ships at sea, from the High North to the Mediterranean, demonstrating "ironclad" solidarity with alliance members – which doesn't include Ukraine.

Asked whether these plans had been activated before, the NATO chief refused to comment in case the information existed outside of public knowledge.

The forces with greater deployment freedom are to include the NATO Response Force (40,000-strong including a very high readiness force of 5,000), he said.

This Response Force has never been activated in its entirety since it was established in 2003, according to the House of Commons, but elements have been activated to assist with the 2021 Kabul evacuation and natural disasters.

Watch: Where is NATO deployed in Europe?

If the NATO Response Force were to be activated wholly, this would be a first for the alliance.

Mr Stoltenberg said the coming days will see greater troop deployments to its Eastern flank – which has seen a spike of security measures in recent weeks.

It's part of wider lessons learned and forces established around the Baltics since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea – NATO was without representation in the region.

Although a greater presence is headed to NATO territory in Eastern Europe, Mr Stoltenberg confirmed no allied forces are in Ukraine – which has rallied for membership for more than a decade.

Citing the Article V notion 'an attack on one is an attack on all' – the NATO chief reiterated that this applies to fully-fledged members near Ukraine, while consequences for Russian aggression into Ukraine itself would consist largely of sanctions.