As tens of thousands of Russian troops poured into Ukraine from several points along the border, NATO was initially caught off-guard but quickly responded with the activation of a 40,000-strong quick reaction force for the first time since its formation more than a decade ago.
“No matter who tries to stand in our way… they must know that Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history…. I hope that my words will be heard," Putin said in a televised address to his country and the world as he ordered his forces into Ukraine.
That led to NATO's response, as reported by UNZ.com:
In a move that can only be regarded as a major escalation, NATO officials announced on Friday that they would deploy troops from its Combat-Ready Response Force to support the Ukrainian regime in its war with Russia. The Alliance will also send additional weapons which will be used to blunt the Russian offensive that has already seized large parts of the country and obliterated most of Ukraine’s defensive capability.
"It is impossible to overstate the gravity of NATO’s action which assigns such importance to preserving its ‘junta regime’ in Kiev that they would willingly pit NATO against a nuclear-armed Russia in what could become a much broader regional war," the report and assessment continued.
"Clearly, the strategic objectives of this murky conflict go far beyond the mere control of an ethnically-divided, failed state situated between Europe and Asia. Ukraine is no longer just a geopolitical trophy for western elites, but a last-gasp effort for Washington to prove it still controls the levers of global power," the report added.
In addition to deploying NATO forces, NATO and other European countries also announced they will begin sending lethal weapons to Ukraine as well -- to include, surprisingly, Germany, despite that country's post-World War II policy of not sending weapons to active combat zones.
Germany had come under withering pressure from NATO and the European Union to step up and help out the Ukrainians whose military is badly outmatched by superior Russian firepower and technology, not to mention sheer numbers of professional troops, notes Politico:
From its own stockpile, the German government will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems to Ukraine. The government has also authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and told Estonia [to] … send nine howitzers.
A government spokesperson said the weapons will be delivered “as soon as possible.”
NATO's decision to send arms to the Ukrainians means that Putin's forces have no choice but to find them and destroy them where they are being assembled and stockpiled for shipment before they can be received Kyiv. That's the only way he has to protect the lives of Russian soldiers -- destroy weapons before they can be used to kill his military personnel.
But attacking weapons depots means that NATO personnel will be killed and wounded, and from there the fight would escalate with the potential of plunging the entirety of Europe into a third destructive war in just over a century.
“Yesterday, NATO Allies activated our defense plans… on land, at sea, and in the air…. The United States, Canada and European Allies have deployed thousands more troops to the eastern part of the Alliance," NATO Secretary-General Jans Stoltenberg announced.
"We now have over 100 jets at high alert operating in over 30 different locations… and over 120 ships from the High North to the Mediterranean… including three strike carrier groups," he added. "We have many planes operating in the eastern part of the Alliance (and) several Allies have partly already assigned troops and forces to the NATO Response Force."
Has Putin set World War III in motion, for real this time?