The North Atlantic Alliance called on Russia on the eve of Catholic Christmas to withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border and thereby reduce tension in the region. Moscow has the opportunity to ensure a peaceful and tranquil holiday period for all parties concerned, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with dpa agency published on Thursday 23 December.
According to Stoltenberg, we are talking about tens of thousands of military personnel concentrated near the Russian-Ukrainian border. The Russian Federation has already resorted to aggression against Ukraine during the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in the spring of 2014, the NATO Secretary General noted. He highlighted the scale of the build-up of forces and the absence of signs of its termination or slowdown. Stoltenberg did not explain whether he sees the movement of Russian troops as an attempt by Moscow to win concessions from the alliance on security issues.
NATO’s Right to Protect All Allies
The NATO Secretary General expressed his readiness to talk with Moscow in the light of its demands for “security guarantees.” At the same time, the head of the alliance rejected ideas about the possible non-acceptance of individual states into NATO. “We cannot question NATO’s right to protect all allies, as well as the basic principle that every nation has the right to choose its own path,” Stoltenberg said.
Russia’s position on its ability to decide what its neighbors can or cannot do means reintroducing the concept of “spheres of influence,” the alliance secretary general said. “This is absolutely contrary to everything that has ensured peace and stability in Europe since the end of the Cold War,” he added.
Aggravation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict
In the spring of 2021, Russia deployed more than 100 thousand troops to the annexed Crimea and to the border with Ukraine as part of the exercises. Western leaders fear Moscow is preparing for war.
On December 17, the Russian Foreign Ministry published a package of requirements for security guarantees, which, among other things, would include NATO’s refusal to further expand to the East and admit Ukraine to its membership, to conduct military activities in the territory of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as to refuse placement of medium and short-range missiles at positions from which they can strike the territory of other parties to the agreement.