A Ukrainian Special Operations unit has become the first-ever non-NATO unit to pass the Alliance’s arduous SOF certification process.

The 140th Special Operations Forces Center (140th SOFC) is now eligible to deploy and operate under the umbrella of NATO’s Response Force, the NRF. Being a SOF unit, however, means that if it were to be called, the 140th SOFC would be deployed as part of the Alliance’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), a quick reaction force that is designed to deal with emergency contingencies under the Readiness Action Plan (RAP).

Despite the unit’s title, which alludes to a training organization, it’s one of the four operational elements of the Ukrainian Special Operations Command (the other three being the 3rd Special Operations Regiment, the 8th Special Operations Regiment, and 73rd Special Operations Sea Center).

This unique qualification signals the gradual incorporation of Ukraine into the West. With an official entry to NATO being out of the question for the moment – Russia would perceive such a move almost as an act of war – the Ukrainian government is doing its best to shield the country from further Russian aggression, which has already wolfed Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine.