(Brussels) NATO is concerned about the “real” danger of conflict in Ukraine with continued Russian military reinforcements on its borders and must prepare for a diplomatic defeat, Coalition Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned on Friday.
“Russia’s military structure continues to surround Ukraine and there is a threatening speech from Moscow if its demands are not met. However, they are unacceptable and the risk of a new conflict is real,” Stoltenberg announced after a video conference with the foreign ministers of the Allies.
The Kremlin unveiled two deal proposals to NATO late last year to exclude Ukraine from future membership and reduce its forces near its borders with Russia.
“There is no doubt that NATO will compromise on the principle of the right of every nation to choose its own path, including what kind of security agreement it wishes to be a part of,” Jens Stoltenberg said.
US-Russian talks are set to open in Geneva on Monday to mitigate the risk of Russian intervention in Ukraine. Moscow agreed to attend the NATO-Russia Council meeting on Wednesday, the first since the summer of 2019. “This is a positive signal because tensions are high,” Jens Stoltenberg underlined.
But the allies imposed conditions. “The Russian government must reduce its intensity, pursue diplomatic channels and respect its obligations in the light of the transparency of military operations,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Dres.
For his part, his Polish opposition leader Zbigniew Rau confirmed that “talks with Russia cannot take place in the context of escalating tensions with Ukraine and NATO.”
NATO will not intervene
“There can be no discussion of Europe’s security without Europeans at the negotiating table,” Jens Stoltenberg stressed.
Anthony Blinken, the head of US diplomacy, promised in Kiev that “there can be no discussion of Ukraine without Ukraine.”
“Europe, the EU can give its perspective on the whole geopolitical situation in the region, act and sit around the table with all stakeholders,” French President Emmanuel stressed on Friday. With members of the European Commission headed by German Ursula van der Leyen.
“We must be prepared for the possibility of counseling failing,” Jens Stoltenberg warned.
“If Russia decides to use military means against its neighbors, it will suffer severe economic and political sanctions,” he said.
But NATO will not intervene militarily because Ukraine is not a member state of the alliance, he reiterated.
“Ukraine is a partner, but not under the 30-nation Commonwealth Security Rule,” he said.
However, the coalition is preparing to strengthen its military presence in the east. “We have significant capabilities,” Jens Stoltenberg stressed, recalling that NATO had a rapid reaction force of 40,000 men.