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Friday, January 21, 2022

NATO chief warns threat of Ukraine invasion remains real with talks at Moscow beginning next week

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) chief Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the threat of Russia invading Ukraine remains real as Russia’s aggressive actions undermine the security order in Europe. Mr. Stoltenberg also noted that Russia has not stopped building up its military as Russian troops remain stationed at the Ukraine border in vast quantities.

In response to the threat, Ukrainian allies have looked to coordinate their approach ahead of the crunch talks that are scheduled to take place in Moscow next week. The United States believes a diplomatic approach is still possible with Russia as diplomats representing both nations meet in Geneva on Monday after Moscow deployed tens of thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border and urged NATO to not allow Ukraine to join as a new member.

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It’s not clear as to how many troops have been deployed to the Ukrainian border but it’s estimated to be around 100,000, prompting concerns that Russia could be planning a full invasion of Ukraine as the last time such a heavy troop presence was stationed at the border, Russia annexed Crimea back in March 2014.

The talks being held in Geneva on Monday will be followed by a meeting between Russia and all 30 NATO members on Wednesday, which will be the first of such an encounter since 2019. Although expressing a desire to engage in dialogue with Russia in good faith, Stoltenberg cautioned that we must also be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy will fail.

Ministers have now stressed that there will be significant consequences if further aggression against Ukraine continues with tough financial sanctions being aimed at Moscow if an invasion takes place, however, NATO is not prepared to protect Ukraine militarily.

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Diplomats have stated that there are key differences among European allies regarding the approach that NATO should take at the talks with Russia next week. However, Stoltenberg stated, “All our allies sent a very clear message that we will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to decide its own path”.

This follows a decision taken by the Kremlin last year when it published two proposed treaties for NATO to rule out membership with Ukraine and reduce its forces stationed near the Russian border. The United States and its allies expressed shock towards both proposals and rejected what it described as a bid by Moscow to dictate the future on independent partners.

Regarding the different approaches that diplomats are calling for during next week’s talks, some have called for the focus to remain on getting Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has denied plans for a Ukraine invasion, to pull back from Ukraine and reject Moscow’s proposals while others have said a meeting could serve as a kickstarter to the negotiation process, leaving room for discussions relating to other issues.

European allies have called for clarity regarding the US’ game plan for the talks in Geneva while President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen insists that Europe has to get involved. Europe’s involvement is crucial as Stoltenberg said the US has been very clear that there will be “no decisions about European security, no discussions about European security without the Europeans at the table”.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has stated that Geneva’s success will be determined by Russia and that a forceful response to Russian aggression is being prepared, however, he added that a diplomatic solution was still possible and preferable if Russia chooses it.

IMAGE – Johannes Jansson

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