NATO scrambled more than 100 warplanes to patrol its airspace and its forces have been put on high alert as Russia launches what appears to be an all-out assault to conquer Ukraine.
“Peace in our continent has been shattered,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in an address on Thursday after an emergency NATO meeting. “We now have war in Europe, on a scale and of a type we thought belong to history.”
He later reiterated that NATO had no plans to send alliance troops into Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance, and that all 30 NATO members retained their “ironclad” commitment to collective defense.
NATO has activated its defense forces and has 120 warships from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Atlantic also on standby.
Stoltenberg also said the alliance was working to deconflict with Russia as missile strikes were spotted as far west as Ivano-Frankivsk, just over 100 miles from NATO-allied soil. Western officials are concerned about the danger of miscalculation or mistakes so close to NATO borders in a way that could dangerously escalate the conflict beyond Ukraine.
In Ukraine. Russian military forces launched offensives on Ukrainian cities, military bases, and airports from the east, north, and south in the early hours of Thursday morning local time as Ukrainian citizens loaded into trains and cars to flee west. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced that any Ukrainian citizen ready and able to hold a weapon can enlist with the country’s territorial defense forces to fight the Russian invasion.
Top Western officials concede that Ukraine is outmanned and outgunned in the fight but are holding out hope that Ukrainian defense forces can blunt the worst of the Russian advance.
Anger, regret from Western Europe. Across Europe, officials reacted to the invasion with a mixture of shock, horror, and even regret as some realized they gravely miscalculated the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the run-up to the invasion.
“I’m so angry at ourselves for our historical failure. After Georgia, Crimea, and Donbas, we have not prepared anything that would have really deterred Putin,” tweeted Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the former German defense minister.
Sanctions war ramps up.
The European Union unleashed a wave of export controls to cut off key Russian industries and promised massive new sanctions targeting Russian elites.
More sanctions announcements, including from Washington, are likely on the way as soon as Thursday while Moscow’s stock index and price of the Russian ruble plummeted to modern historic lows. But Ukrainian and Eastern European officials aren’t satisfied with the initial response since others in the alliance are yet to roll out stiffer sanctions that would cut off Russia’s economy from the rest of the world.
For weeks, U.S. and British officials have outlined an exact play-by-play of Russian invasion plans (which Russian officials dismissed as false and alarmist, right up until the point they invaded). Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chairperson of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted out the sequencing of Russia’s attack plan ahead of the Russian military carrying out its invasion, giving a small sliver of insight into the depths of U.S. intelligence on Moscow’s plans.