"The risk of a conflict is real": NATO signals readiness for dialogue with Russia. Thousands of Russian soldiers had been drawn together near the Ukraine.
The NATO has its readiness for dialogue with Russia emphasized. At the same time, the alliance will be prepared for the failure of the talks, said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a crisis meeting with the foreign ministers of the member states.
NATO will exchange ideas with Russia in good faith and in substance
But we also have to be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy will fail
Stoltenberg warned of a "real" risk of a renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine. "The risk of a conflict is real," said the NATO Secretary General. "Russia's aggressive actions seriously undermine the security order in Europe," he added.
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The ministers had emphasized in the video conference that any further aggression by Russia against Ukraine would have significant consequences and a high price for Russia, said Stoltenberg. This included economic sanctions, among other things.
The background to the crisis meeting was Russian demands for new security agreements and the recent deployment of Russian troops near Ukraine.
According to Western intelligence services, this is related to Moscow's demands and is intended to fuel fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine in order to persuade NATO to make concessions. Russia always denied such a plan.
It is based on the core principles of the European security order
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) said: "It is clear to us that dialogue must take place on the basis of the core principles of the European security order." They have now agreed on the upcoming dialogue formats with Russia.
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Specifically, Moscow wants to ensure that the NATO states undertake to refrain from military action in the territory of Ukraine and other states in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and in Central Asia.
In addition, the western military alliance is to declare that it will refrain from further expansion and, in particular, from accepting Ukraine.
Russia is also demanding that the US withdraw all US nuclear weapons from third countries. In the course of the so-called nuclear participation of NATO, these were also stationed in Germany.
According to Moscow's wish, the security guarantees are to be laid down in an agreement with NATO and in a treaty with the USA. Russia presented drafts for both agreements in the week before Christmas.
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Stoltenberg did not specifically respond to the suggestions from Moscow on Friday. At the same time, however, he made it clear that Russia could not decide who would be accepted into NATO and who would not.
Russia must also address the concerns of the Allies
According to information from Western intelligence circles, Russia had already drawn between 75,000 and 100,000 soldiers in areas not far from Ukraine at the beginning of December 2021. The developments bring back memories of 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula after the coup in Ukraine.
Stoltenberg emphasized that the Russian troop deployment on the border with Ukraine would continue. Combined with Moscow's aggressive rhetoric and past experience, this sends the message that there is a real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe.
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In order to have a meaningful dialogue, Russia must also address the longstanding concerns of the Allies. A meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at ambassador level is scheduled for January 12 in Brussels. It will be the first meeting since July 2019.
US Secretary of State Blinken threatens massive consequences
In the coming week, negotiators from Moscow and Washington will meet in Geneva. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken once again made serious allegations against Russia before the meeting. At the same time, he said that a diplomatic solution to the crisis, which Russia itself had brought about, was still possible and desirable.
That’s what the next week’s meeting will be about. "And we believe there are areas where we can make progress," said Blinken. However, this cannot be a one-way street, but must go in both directions. Blinken threatened again that if the Russian government opted for escalation, this would have massive consequences, including economic measures.
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Blinken said the Russian government's argument that Ukraine was the aggressor in this case was downright absurd. The claim that Russia is being threatened by NATO is also wrong. Rather, Blinken made serious reproaches to the Russian government:
Russia had marched into two neighboring countries, interfered in elections in many countries, violated international arms control agreements and used chemical weapons in attempted assassinations against Russian opposition members.
Blinken phoned his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba this Friday and, according to the US State Department, reiterated the US's "unwavering support" for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
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