NATO chief scorches Putin's 'reckless and dangerous' move to put nukes on high alert
Annual Direct Line with Vladimir Putin in Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual "Direct Line with Vladimir Putin" live call-in show. - -/Kremlin/dpa

In response to crippling sanctions against the Russian economy, Vladimir Putin ordered his nuclear weapons to be placed on "high alert" for launch. This order does not actually mean Russia will launch nuclear weapons in Ukraine or NATO — it's essentially just an order for troops to be on heightened standby for such an order to be given — but it is still a highly unusual and provocative move.

In a new interview with NBC News, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg slammed Putin's order as raising tensions in the conflict.

WATCH: John Oliver tells George W. Bush 'maybe you should sit this one out' after he comments on Putin

"It is a reckless and dangerous decision by Russia to put their nuclear forces on high alert," said Stoltenberg. "There's no reason for that. NATO is no threat to Russia. We don't seek confrontation with Russia, and NATO is a defensive alliance. What we do is to support Ukraine in their right to uphold the right to its self-defense, and, of course, we are increasing the presence of NATO troops, U.S. troops, all of the European troops in the eastern part of the alliance to make sure that there's no room for any miscalculation in Moscow about our readiness to protect and defend our allies. But this is defensive, so there's no reason for Russia to increase alertness of nuclear forces."

Watch below: