Units of the NATO Response Force arrived in Romania on Monday and Tuesday (28 February – 1 March 2022) to reinforce NATO’s defensive posture in the eastern part of the Alliance. 500 French troops assembled in Istres in southern France before deploying to Romania. This is the first time NATO has activated the NATO Response Force for collective defence and deterrence. It follows NATO’s activation of its defence response plans amid the biggest security crisis in Europe in decades, triggered by Russia’s massive military build-up and its invasion of Ukraine.
France leads this year’s highest-readiness element of the NATO Response Force, a multinational force comprised of up to 40,000 land, air, maritime and special operations personnel that NATO can deploy at short notice as needed. The soldiers, part of the French Army’s Chasseurs alpins unit (“Alpine Hunters”) arrived at Mihail Kog?lniceanu International Airport on 28 February 2022. They are part of the NRF, which is being deployed to the eastern part of the Alliance in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. The NRF ensures that the Alliance continues to have the speed, responsiveness and capability to defend NATO territory and populations.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the deployment: “Over the last weeks, we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance and now, we are for the first time in our history deploying the NATO Response Force. French troops have arrived in Romania as the lead element of this force. Our commitment to Article 5, our collective defence clause, is iron-clad. We will protect and defend every inch of NATO territory.” The current secretary-general is former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who took office on 1 October 2014. Stoltenberg’s mission as secretary-general was extended for another four-year term, meaning that he will lead NATO until September 30, 2022.
The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a high-readiness force comprising land, air, sea and special forces units capable of being deployed quickly. Until February 2022, when NATO activated it in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, units assigned to the NRF were only used to assist with disaster relief and security at high-profile security events. On 25 February 2022 after a NATO meeting, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) was activated for the defense of members of the alliance, for the first time. Rotating forces through the NRF requires nations to meet the demanding standards needed for collective defence and expeditionary operations.