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NATO finally comes to Ukraine’s aid with response force debut, members send arms, ammunition

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO has activated its response force. Germany, France and others are sending missiles and other weapons systems amid escalation.

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New Delhi: The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and several of its member nations have stepped up to answer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for aid amid Russia’s full-scale military invasion, after days of initial hesitation and fears of further escalation.

Late Friday, the military alliance announced that it will be deploying its NATO Response Force — for the first time ever — as it uploaded a video explainer about the force.

Moreover, member nations Germany, the Netherlands, France, Czech Republic and Lithuania have also reportedly started providing Ukraine with arms and ammunition systems in the last couple of days.

NATO Response Force’s debut

First announced at NATO’s Prague Summit in November 2002, the NATO Response Force (NRF) is a multinational land, air and sea and special ops forces that can operate year-round to provide a rapid response to “security crises”.

“Allies contribute forces annually on a rotating basis… In addition to its operational role, the NRF can be used for greater cooperation in education and training, increased exercises, support for disaster relief and better use of technology,” the organisation says. 

In order to participate in the NRF, a soldier must participate in their nation’s armed forces first before undergoing training with other prospective NRF participants. “Operational command of the NRF alternates annually between Allied Joint Force Commands in Brunssum, the Netherlands and Naples, Italy.” 

At NATO’s 2014 Wales summit, the organisation announced an “enhancement” and expansion of the NRF to include a 20,000-strong Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) and an Initial Follow-On Forces Group (IFFG).

“The VJTF and Initial Follow-on Forces are based in their home countries, but are able to deploy to wherever they are needed for exercises or crisis response,” the alliance says. 

The latest announcement by NATO is the first deployment of the NRF in any form.

“We have activated NATO’s defence plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies and secure Alliance territory, including by drawing on our response forces… Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron-clad. We stand united to protect and defend all Allies. Freedom will always win over oppression,” NATO Heads of state added in a joint-press release.


Also read: Russian troops enter Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, blow up gas pipeline


Weapons to Ukraine, airspace closures against Russia

On Saturday, Germany put an end to its “historic policy” of not sending weapons to war zones by committing to supply Ukraine with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems, Politico Europe reported.

According to Reuters, Germany will also close its airspace to Russian planes.  

On Friday, the Netherlands had said it is sending 200 Stinger missiles to Ukraine “as soon as possible”. “The Cabinet previously announced it would supply 100 sniper rifles with associated ammunition, five weapon location radars, two battlefield surveillance radars, metal detectors and two wire-guided detection robots to detect naval mines. It would also send 3,000 combat helmets and 2,000 fragmentation vests,” the NL Times reported.

The Netherlands will also supply 50 Panzerfaust-3 anti-tank weapons and 400 rockets and is jointly considering with Germany sending a Patriot air defence system to a NATO battle group in Slovakia, Al Jazeera reported, citing a defence ministry letter. 

According to France24, the Emmanuel Macron government has also begun delivering defensive weapons to Kyiv. “Ukraine’s embassy in Paris said it had in particular requested anti-aircraft hardware,” France24 added

“The Czech Republic is sending Ukraine machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, pistols and ammunition worth 188 million crowns,” Radio Prague International said

Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have all reportedly banned Russian airlines from using their airspace or arriving at their airports. Furthermore, Lithuania’s cabinet Wednesday approved a proposal to send “weapons, boats and civil protection equipment” to Kyiv.


Also read: ‘Pitiful’ Ukrainians and a dreadful journey: What evacuated Indian students saw & felt


 

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