NATO leaders are set to approve plans outlining how the alliance can respond to an attack by Russia.
The proposed move comes as a top NATO official, Admiral Rob Bauer, warned that preparations were needed because “a conflict can present itself at any time.”
NATO, which has been involved in smaller conflicts such as Afghanistan in recent years, has not drawn up such detailed plans for defending against a Russian attack since the end of the Cold War, but President Vladimir Putin‘s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has led to a rethink.
The plans, running into thousands of pages, will also guide its 31 members on how to upgrade forces and logistics.
The move, which will be approved at the alliance’s annual summit in Vilnius in July, may take several years to fully implement, although the NATO officials said that it could head into battle immediately.
“We are ready to fight tonight,” said Lieutenant General Hubert Cottereau, vice chief of staff at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), according to Reuters.
He said that the alliance does not believe that increasing troop numbers in the east are required, which is what Baltics states have demanded. “If the Russians are massing troops on the border that will make us nervous,” he told the agency, “if we are massing troops on the border that will make them nervous.”
Last year, NATO agreed to put 300,000 troops on high alert, up from 40,000. However, it has struggled to keep pace with Ukraine’s demands for military equipment and would have to upgrade logistics to allow troops to be deployed quickly via rail or road.
Historian at SHAPE, Ian Hope, told the agency that a possible conflict with Moscow would be different to the threat posed during the Cold War, but drones, hypersonic weapons and the internet “present new challenges.”
There are questions over NATO’s readiness for a conflict with Russia. In September 2022, a former senior NATO commander, General Sir Richard Shirreff, told Newsweek that the alliance was not ready to engage in a war with Moscow if its full-scale invasion of Ukraine turned into a “worst case” scenario.
“Being ready for the worst-case means mobilizing reserves,” he said. “It means rebuilding lost capabilities thrown away in years of defense cuts.”
Last month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that all member countries agreed that Ukraine will join the alliance, once the war is over. The alliance has increased in size to 31 members after Finland’s accession last month, which doubled NATO’s border with Russia to 1,600 miles.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to attend the NATO summit although officials in Kyiv want this to be preceded by a roadmap for membership of the alliance. Newsweek has contacted NATO by email for further comment.