BRUSSELS: NATO foreign ministers said on Friday (January 7) that they remained united against any possible Russian military action in Ukraine and signaled that many of the security demands made by the Kremlin were unacceptable.
The 30 ministers held a video call ahead of the US-Russia negotiations in Geneva on Monday, which will be followed by a NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels and broader talks in Vienna, prompted by Moscow’s demand for security guarantees.
“Foreign ministers of all NATO countries reaffirmed our unity in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine at today’s special session,” the US mission to the Atlantic Alliance.
Russia has deployed large numbers of troops near its border with Ukraine and wants legally binding guarantees that NATO will stop its eastward expansion and end military cooperation with the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and from Georgia.
Moscow denies US suggestions that it plans to invade Ukraine and instead accuses Kiev of strengthening its forces in the east of the country.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the call with foreign ministers, welcomed the prospect of talks with Moscow next week after months of both sides accusing each other of jeopardize peace and stability in Europe.
But speaking at a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg added: “The idea that Ukraine is a threat to Russia is messing things up.”
“Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. I think it is rather the idea of a democratic and stable Ukraine that is a challenge for them,” he said.
There is no prospect of Ukraine and Georgia – both of which have territorial disputes with Moscow – joining NATO anytime soon. But Stoltenberg said the admission of North Macedonia and Montenegro showed “NATO’s door remains open.”
Stoltenberg added that it would be unacceptable to give Russia a veto over countries that might join the US-led alliance in the future.
“We cannot find ourselves in a situation where we have second-class NATO members, where NATO as an alliance is not allowed to protect them,” he said.
On Twitter, the foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, Belgium and Slovakia shared the sentiment, saying NATO cannot dilute its key principles or values.
NATO wants Moscow to resume a peace process in eastern Ukraine, where some 15,000 people have been killed in a seven-year conflict between Ukrainian government troops and Russian-backed separatists.