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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to put the nation’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert Sunday following “aggressive statements” from NATO.
“Top officials of leading NATO nations indulge in making aggressive statements about our country. Therefore, I am ordering the minister of defence and the chief of the general staff to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into special combat duty mode,” Putin said in a briefing with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov in Moscow.
Read More: Russia Shuts Airspace to Polish, Czech, Bulgarian Planes
Putin’s order follows remarks
by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss earlier in the day warning that if Russia’s military operation in Ukraine was not “stopped,” it could lead to a conflict with NATO.
“This long-running conflict is about freedom and democracy in Europe. Because if we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine, we are going to see others under threat: the Baltics, Poland, Moldova. And it could end up in a conflict with NATO,” Truss said.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the Russian president’s decision later Sunday, suggesting it was part of a “pattern” of “manufacturing threats that don’t exist to justify further aggression.” Psaki did not comment on Truss’s remarks.
Russia ‘Will Be Held Accountable’, NATO Says
The leaders of the Western alliance held an emergency virtual summit on Friday to “condemn in the strongest possible terms
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, enabled by Belarus.” In a joint statement, the alliance called on Moscow to “immediately cease its military assault, to withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and to turn back from the path of aggression it has chosen.”
The bloc warned that “the world” would “hold Russia, as well as Belarus, accountable for their actions,” and accused Moscow of bearing “full responsibility for this conflict” by “reject[ing] the path of diplomacy and dialogue repeatedly offered to it by NATO and Allies.”
The alliance promised to “take all measures and decisions required to ensure the security and defence of all Allies,” including through the deployment of additional land and air units in Eastern Europe and maritime assets “across the NATO area.” This has included the deployment of the NATO combat-ready response force ‘as a precautionary measure’, for the first time in the bloc’s history.
US media have also warned
in recent days that a Russian cyberattack on Ukraine could trigger Article 5 -the NATO Treaty measure committing allies to joint defence in the event of an attack on one member, if such a cyber action impacts eastern Poland.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Thursday that the alliance would protect “every inch” of the bloc’s territory, but noted that NATO does not have “any plans” to deploy troops in Ukraine.
“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,” Stoltenberg said.
The NATO chief and others, including US President Joe Biden, have indicated that the alliance’s assistance to Kiev would continue include weapons and other support.