1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ukraine: NATO bolsters collective defenses

Alistair Walsh
March 24, 2022

NATO has activated chemical and nuclear "defense elements" to protect member states. Leaders of the Western military alliance have also demanded that China withhold support for Russia.

Soldiers from Norway and the USA are rappelling down from a Bell-412 from the Air Force during the demonstration of some of the air capabilities
NATO its bolstering its defenses in light of the Russian invasionImage: Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB/picture alliance

NATO is bolstering its defenses in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO leaders announced in a joint statement on Thursday.

The leaders condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, saying it had "shattered peace in Europe." The statement came after a special meeting of the defense alliance in Brussels.

What steps has NATO taken over Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

In response to the invasion, NATO leaders have activated defense plans, deployed parts of the NATO Response Force, and have stationed 40,000 troops on its eastern flank, the leaders said in a joint statement.

The leaders also announced they were establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Germany will provide troops for the new NATO battlegroup in Slovakia, according to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"In light of the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades, we will also significantly strengthen our longer term deterrence and defense posture and will further develop the full range of ready forces and capabilities necessary to maintain credible deterrence and defense," the leaders said.

Speaking after the meeting, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said its top military commander had activated the alliance's chemical and nuclear defense elements.

He said NATO was increasingly concerned that Russia was trying to create a pretext to carry out such an attack on Ukraine.

DW NATO Correspondent Teri Schultz said "NATO is rethinking its own security … specifically in regard to chemical weapons."

"It is increasingly concerned that what Russia does inside Ukraine, in the case of a chemical weapon, could spill over the border,”"Schultz said.

"That does not mean that the alliance would declare Article 5 or something that rises to that level, but they certainly are beginning to take more precautions to protect their populations."

Germany rules out NATO involvement in Ukraine

How will it increase support for Ukraine?

Stoltenberg said NATO members are "equipping Ukraine with significant military supplies including anti-tank and air defense systems and drones, which are proving highly effective, as well as substantial financial and humanitarian aid."

"Today we agreed to do more, including cyber security assistance and equipment to help Ukraine protect against biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear threats," he added.

The NATO chief warned against escalating the war and pledged more support for other countries facing threats from Russia, namely Georgia and Bosnia.

Asked whether NATO would provide Ukraine with the list of weapons and equipment requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Stoltenberg said that alliance members are already supplying weapons and equipment, but "at the same time, we have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from becoming a full-fledged war in Europe."

Stoltenberg: 'We must and will provide further support to Ukraine'

How did they respond to China?

NATO leaders called upon China to withhold support from Russia, and not to help it circumvent sanctions.

"We call on all states, including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to uphold the international order including the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as enshrined in the UN Charter, to abstain from supporting Russia’s war effort in any way, and to refrain from any action that helps Russia circumvent sanctions," the joint statement read.

In response to the statement, the Chinese Ministry of Defense said it had no prior knowledge, acquiescence, or connivance on Russia's military operation in Ukraine," according to comments carried by state run media.

NATO members meet for emergency summit

Stoltenberg's mandate extended

Secretary-General Stoltenberg had his mandate extended for one year to September 30, 2023. 

The mandate for the former Norwegian prime minister had been due to expire in September. It is the second time his mandate has been extended since being appointed in October 2014.

DW Brussels Bureau Chief Alexandra von Nahmen said this was indicative of the severity of the crisis facing NATO.

"That means that the alliance is indeed facing a major crisis and they want Stoltenberg who is an experienced and valued secretary general to stay on," she said.

What other summits are taking place today?

As well as the extraordinary NATO summit, leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) and the European Union were due to hold separate meetings, also on the topic of Russia's invasion.

US President Joe Biden is in Brussels and attending these summits in a bid to deepen sanctions on Russia, particularly on energy.

G7 leaders agreed to limit the ability of Russia's central bank ability to use gold for transactions. They also warned Russia against using biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in joint statement.

The leaders said all G7 nations were ready to welcome refugees from Ukraine. They also called upon oil- and gas-producing countries to act responsibly and increase supply to international markets, with OPEC playing a role. They agreed to avoid food export bans.

Ahead of the EU summit summit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said leaders were unlikely to agree new sanctions. "We have already imposed a lot of sanctions, we are now entering more complex terrain," Rutte told reporters. His Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas called on the EU to impose strong sanctions.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the EU should not unnecessarily weaken its economies with sanctions on Russia.

German Chancellor Scholz said further sanctions will be imposed on Russia as they become necessary. Current sanctions appeared to be very effective. He said everyone was already feeling the effects of the war in energy and food prices and that energy sanctions had been deliberately avoided.

Various EU leaders all refused Russia's demands to pay for gas in rubles.

US President Joe Biden later insisted that Putin is misguided if he thinks "Europe is going to crack," under the pressure of sustained sanctions.

Edited by: Rob Turner

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo pictured during an interview with DW
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage