The Secretary General of NATO, Jens stoltenberg, demanded this Sunday from Moscow transparency and that it appeal to a de-escalation in the face of the “very worrying” growing military presence of Russia on the border with Ukraine and warned of the consequences in the event of the use of force.
“We have discussed the inexplicable and unjustified military reinforcement of Russia near Ukraine. We call on Russia to be transparent, reduce tensions and de-escalate “, stated at a joint press conference in Vilnius with the President of the European Commission (EU), Ursula von der Leyen, the President of Lithuania, Gypsy Nausėda, and the prime minister, Ingrida Šimonytė.
He assured that “NATO remains vigilant” and is ready to defend all allies, while noting that it will continue to provide political and practical support to Ukraine as a partner.
If Russia decides to use force, “Naturally there will be consequences”, he warned, and referred to previous measures imposed against Russia, for example, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Stoltenberg added that the Alliance’s support for its partners “It is not a threat to Russia” and helps them defend themselves from aggressions.
He affirmed that the dual approach in relation to Russia, that is, defense and dialogue, has not changed and recalled that the Alliance proposed a year and a half ago a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council that is still standing. “The ball is in the court of Russia”, he claimed.
At the same time, NATO continues to practice strong deterrence and defense, he said, specifying that its presence in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland contributes to curbing any aggression.
The increased risks due to the Russian military reinforcement together with Ukraine and the migrant crisis orchestrated by Belarus on its border with allied countries will focus the meeting this week of NATO Foreign Ministers, concerned about security on the eastern flank of The alliance.
The ministers will meet in Riga on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Stoltenberg will hold a press conference with the Latvian president, Egils Levits, after visiting Latvia and Lithuania with Von der Leyen on Sunday.
The objective is to show support to these member countries of NATO and the European Union (EU) in the face of the challenge launched by the Belarusian regime of Alexander Lukashenko, considered by Stoltenberg a “cynical exploitation” of “vulnerable people” to exert political pressure.
The matter was also discussed this week by the secretary general with the Polish president, Andrej Doubt, whose country is the most affected by the pressure of migrants at the border, who as he explained in Brussels no longer arrive in large waves but in small groups, at night and armed with military equipment that in his opinion they are provided by Belarusian forces.
Instead, it is the situation on Ukraine’s border with Russia that has raised the tone the most in the allies’ statements.
On Friday, during a press conference prior to the ministerial meeting, Stoltenberg warned that Russia continues to concentrate troops in an “unusual” way on the border with Ukraine, for the second time this year, and that it is a military reinforcement that “has not been provoked and has no explanation.”
“It raises tensions and the risk of miscalculations,” he warned, and stated that the Russian reinforcement includes heavy capabilities such as tanks, artillery, armored units, drones and electronic warfare systems, as well as “combat-ready forces.”
“There is no certainty about Russia’s intentions, but what we know is that it has concentrated forces near Ukraine’s borders and we also know that Russia has used military force against Ukraine before.”, he recalled, referring to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which motivated the greatest reinforcement of the Alliance on its eastern flank since the end of the Cold War.
He also mentioned that Moscow continues to destabilize the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, and organize cyberattacks and hybrid attacks against the country. “Putting all this together, of course, there are reasons to be deeply concerned about the unfolding of events that we see along the Ukrainian border,” he stressed.
At their meeting on Thursday in Brussels, the Polish president even proposed to Stoltenberg “Increase the disposition of NATO forces” in eastern Europe, as well as “consider increasing the military presence” and “reinforcing the air patrol” in the face of threats in that area.
In any case, Stoltenberg recalled that Ukraine is a NATO partner and not a member, so it is not possible to activate Article 5 of collective defense, according to which an attack against one ally is equivalent to an attack against all of them.
At this time, the position of the Alliance towards Russia “remains unchanged” as confirmed by the Secretary General, based on combining deterrence and defense with an openness to dialogue.
Nevertheless, regretted that the Kremlin had “cut diplomatic ties with NATO” closing his diplomatic mission to the Alliance and the organization’s offices in Russia, because from his point of view “In times like these, dialogue is more important than ever.”
Also invited to the Riga meeting are the foreign ministers of Georgia and Ukraine, “highly valued partners who aspire to membership” and that NATO “supports politically and practically”, according to Stoltenberg.
With information from EFE
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