The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the alliance by telling it to withdraw forces from member nations or face consequences.
“This goes far beyond Ukraine,” Stoltenberg warned. “This is about how Russia is actually challenging, contesting core values for our security. Then warning that NATO should withdraw all forces and infrastructure from almost half of our members.
“They said that if we don’t do that, if we don’t meet their demands, there will be what they call ‘military-technical consequences,'” he added.
The leader of the 30-member alliance said that in response to these threats NATO has for the first time deployed its Response Force for collective security.
Stoltenberg said the U.S., U.K., France and Germany are among the NATO nations to have deployed forces and lead elements to assist the Response Force.
“We have to take this seriously,” he said.
The NATO chief also repeated previous warnings that a cyberattack could trigger a united response from the alliance, but said the exact terms surrounding such attacks remain purposefully ambiguous.
“Under the Washington Treaty, Article Five, an attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all,” he said. “Cyberattacks can trigger Article Five, but we have never gone into the position where we give a potential adversary the privilege of defining exactly when we trigger Article Five.”
Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine this week has been widely condemned and the U.S., 27 members of the European Union and all nations in the G7 levied heavy sanctions in an attempt to reverse Moscow’s aggression.
But Putin has only increased his aggressive rhetoric and Stoltenberg said he has made clear his “objectives are not limited to Ukraine.”
The secretary-general stressed the importance of increasing support for other former Soviet nations like Georgia and Moldova, which could be targeted by Russia next.
“We are facing a new normal in European security where Russia openly contests the European security order and uses force to pursue its objectives,” he said. “There must be no space for miscalculation or misunderstanding — we will do what it takes to protect and defend every ally and every inch of NATO territory.”