Ukraine and Georgia are important partners aspiring to membership in NATO, said Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Alliance in Riga. As he added, NATO “invariably supports the sovereignty” of these countries. At the meeting of the Alliance’s chiefs of diplomacy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia’s possible aggression against Ukraine would have “serious consequences”. The communiqué after the talks was also issued by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
– We must remain vigilant and prevent further escalation. Ministers clearly recalled that Russian aggression will come at a high price and will have serious political and economic consequences for Russia, said Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference following the two-day meeting of NATO chiefs of diplomacy. During the morning session, NATO ministers met with the heads of diplomacy of Ukraine and Georgia, Dmytro Kuleba and Dawid Zalkaliani. – Georgia and Ukraine are long-standing and close partners of NATO. They participate in our missions and operations and aspire to membership of the Alliance – emphasized the Secretary General.
He added that NATO continues to support the independence and territorial integrity of both countries and helps them through joint exercises and training for the armed forces, material aid and information exchange. Stoltenberg stressed that in both countries further reforms are needed to strengthen the rule of law and democracy and to enable a better fight against corruption. These actions will not only strengthen the defense of these countries, but also bring them closer to the prospect of membership in the Alliance, he added.
Stoltenberg: Russia has no voting rights and no veto here
Russia wants to rebuild its sphere of influence in which it has the right to control its neighbors, but we do not want to return to the world where the powers dictate their will to independent states, Stoltenberg said, answering a question about Russia’s reaction to the possible accession of Ukraine to the Alliance.
– I come from a small country bordering Russia (Stoltenberg was the prime minister of Norway before – ed.) And I am very pleased that our NATO allies never recognized that Russia had any right to establish its sphere of influence in the north of Europe and decide on the fate of countries like Norway. It is exactly the same with Ukraine. It is an independent country with internationally recognized borders (…) these borders must be respected, which of course also includes Crimea and Donbass, which are parts of Ukraine, explained NATO’s secretary general.
Stoltenberg recalled that the Alliance was defensive, posed no threat to anyone, and that independent states could join it with the consent of other member states. – Russia has no voting rights and no veto here – he stressed.
Blinken: Russia’s actions will have serious consequences
– In recent weeks, Russia has intensified planning of potential military operations in Ukraine, including the deployment of tens of thousands of additional soldiers around its borders – said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference following the two-day meeting.
The head of US diplomacy said that Moscow’s plans include both efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within and a large-scale military operation. We must be prepared for all possibilities. We do not know if Vladimir Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine, added Blinken.
In the event of further aggression by Russia against Ukraine, the US can and will respond in a way that will seriously hit the Russian economy, he warned. – Russia’s actions will have serious consequences – he stressed.
Kuleba calls for a “deterrent package” against Russia
– All Russian proposals to discuss with NATO, the USA or any other country any guarantees that the Alliance will not expand to the East are unlawful – assessed the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine agency. Russia cannot prevent Ukraine from getting closer to NATO and has no voice in discussions on this subject – he pointed out and stressed that Kiev believed that the June NATO summit in Madrid should present the prospects of Ukraine’s possible membership of the Alliance.
The minister declared that for Russia “the best guarantee of security” would be to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory, end aggression against it and – thus – settle relations with the West, instead of “dragging Europe back into the Cold War and spheres of influence.” As Reuters writes, Kuleba also announced that Russia is trying to blame Ukraine. He judged that Europe could now be “at a tipping point”. – We believe that strength should be shown to prevent the need to prove it later – he noted.
Earlier that day, Kuleba announced that Ukraine would call on its allies to prepare a “deterrent package” against Russia. As he noted, NATO should prepare sanctions that would be imposed on Russia if it chooses the “worst-case scenario”.
“Minister Rau stressed that the Alliance must send a clear signal.”
The spokesman of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Łukasz Jasina, indicated in the statement after the meeting that one of the main topics of the talks were the current challenges for the security of the Alliance and the Euro-Atlantic area in connection with the activity of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, as well as the crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border. “In his speech, Minister Zbigniew Rau stressed that the Alliance must send a clear signal that no aggression is acceptable and that the Alliance is ready to take decisive deterrence and defense measures to ensure the security of its members. The ministers agreed that in view of Russia’s aggressive stance it is necessary maintaining the unity and solidarity of the entire Alliance “- reported Jasina.
He emphasized that the meeting of foreign ministers was also an opportunity to reflect on the new Strategic Concept and to consult on the preparations for next year’s NATO summit in Madrid. “In view of the deteriorating security situation in the Euro-Atlantic area, Minister Rau called for the strengthening of NATO’s key role in collective defense,” noted a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Minister Rau on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting
On the sidelines of the meeting, Minister Rau held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Great Britain, Spain, Sweden and Iceland. “With the head of British diplomacy, Liz Truss, he discussed further British support on the border with Belarus and actions that should be taken in the face of threats to the security environment, in particular with regard to Russia’s attitude,” said the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The talks with the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, focused – Jasina added – on the possibility of deepening bilateral cooperation, especially in political, economic and defense matters.
“The meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Ann Linde, was an opportunity to exchange information on the OSCE chairmanship. In a conversation with Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thordis Kolbrun Gylfadottir, the head of Polish diplomacy also presented the main assumptions of the Polish OSCE chairmanship and discussed the possibilities of developing bilateral cooperation.” he informed Jasin.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / TOMS KALNINS