Stoltenberg: No concessions to Russia on basic principles, nor “second-class” NATO members

Stoltenberg: No concessions to Russia on basic principles, nor "second-class" NATO members

Training a Ukrainian unit near the capital, Kiev.Statue of Emil Duc / de Volkskrant

Stoltenberg warned that the build-up of Russian military assets along the Ukrainian border continues and that Russia has “unfortunately” failed to respond to the numerous calls for de-escalation in recent weeks. “The possibility of a real conflict,” he said, referring to Russia’s possible reuse of military force against Ukraine. Russia denies this intention, saying it can deploy troops at home wherever it wants.

NATO ministers met for an “extraordinary” meeting on Friday ahead of Wednesday’s talks with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council (which last met in 2019). According to Stoltenberg, there is “strong support” among member states for entering into talks with Russia.

“We are ready to talk about limiting conventional and nuclear weapons, as long as it is mutual, balanced and verifiable,” Stoltenberg said. “This is different from accepting unilateral limitations on NATO’s ability and right to defend all NATO members. We cannot end up in a position What with second-class members of NATO.

Stoltenberg reiterated that Ukraine is an “important partner” but that it is not a “Navuled” that can claim military support in an armed attack. But the coalition can talk to Russia only in consultation with Ukraine: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Koiliba will visit Brussels on Monday.

Russia’s long-term demands

Russia demanded last month, with the publication of two draft treaties, among other things, that all NATO forces withdraw from the countries belonging to the Warsaw Pact and ensure that NATO never expands eastward again. These are far-reaching demands, presented as an ultimatum, under the weight of unspecified “military-technical measures.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who will negotiate with the Americans in Geneva next week, said again this week that Russia is in a hurry and warned that new Western sanctions could lead to an end to all forms of security cooperation, including arms control. . Ryabkov also said that Russia objects not only to Ukraine’s eventual membership in Navo (which is not politically on the list, despite a 2008 pledge to do so), but also to NATO’s relations with the non-member state.

Ryabkov said on Wednesday to The Wall Street Journal That the Russians in Geneva “want to find out quickly” if there is a basis for working together on some of these points. “Our forces will be there as well, and we will see if there is a basis to continue the diplomatic path.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday joined the chorus of European politicians criticizing the EU’s marginal role. Macron, who under the French presidency wants to make Europe’s “strategic autonomy” a priority, said Friday that he welcomes US-Russian talks, but added that “the European security architecture is something we need to build.”

The question Western politicians are now asking themselves is whether Russia really wants to negotiate or has only made “impossible” demands to further escalate matters militarily. Western politicians also agree that there is room to renegotiate nuclear arms limitation, confidence-building measures, and restrictions on certain types of conventional weapons with Russia after years of deterioration in relations—particularly after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

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