What is the NATO Response Force?
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought condemnation from around the world and the Western alliance has sent its elite fighting troops to secure the region.
Last week NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement announcing that the alliance was sending troops from its elite NATO Response Force (NRF) to Eastern Europe after Russia launched an invasion into Ukraine.
The deployment is the unit’s first collective-defensive mission and their use shows the severity of the conflict in the region, and the concern that NATO countries feel about the threat of an expansionist Russia.
US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters described the NRF as "a flexible, combat credible force” and welcomed their use.
He added: "This is an historic moment and the very first time the alliance has employed these high readiness forces in a deterrence and defence role.”
More on the Russia-Ukraine conflict:
What is the NRF?
NATO is a group of 30 member nations with the self-defined purpose “to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.” This is primarily done by their collective strength as an alliance but the component states also contribute to a military force in the case of emergencies.
The NATO Response Force is comprised of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SFO) sections and is designed to be deployed swiftly, wherever in the world is necessary. Whether that be for training purpose, disaster relief, or active combat the NRF allow NATO to act quickly on the ground.
NATO itself describes the NFR as “a highly capable joint multinational force able to react in a very short time to the full range of security challenges from crisis management to collective defence.”
What is the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force?
The force sent to Eastern Europe last week was bolstered on Tuesday by the additional deployment of further troops to Romania to “reinforce NATO’s defensive posture in the eastern part of the alliance.”
The bulk of the NRF troops now active in the region is comprised of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is considered the ‘rapid response’ section of the alliance’s military. In total the VJTF is made up of about 5,000 troops, most of which are ground forces ready to be deployed anywhere in the world at very short notice.
This additional layer was introduced in 2014 as a direct response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the new political and security landscape that it created in Europe. In announcing the new task force, NATO described the VJTF as its "most significant reinforcement of collective defence since the end of the Cold War."