The 30 NATO countries confirmed on Friday that they are united against Russian aggression in Ukraine. However, after digital consultations, foreign ministers underlined the need for diplomacy, dialogue and de-escalation, the US NATO mission in Brussels reported on Twitter.
Member States discussed their strategy ahead of the NATO-Russia Council, which will be held on Wednesday for the first time since 2019 at the Western alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
Western countries have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia since the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014. That year, Moscow-backed pro-Russian separatists took control of parts of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
Recently, nearly 100,000 Russian troops have gathered along the Ukrainian border, fueling fears of an invasion. According to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, the build-up continues. He warned of a “real risk” of escalation.
The Kremlin has denied having any plans for an invasion. Still, it has demanded that Western countries withdraw troops from eastern Europe and that Ukraine and other neighbouring countries of Russia such as Sweden and Finland cannot join NATO.
The alliance believes that countries should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to join and will under no circumstances deviate from that, Stoltenberg said. Stoltenberg said that Russia could not impose restrictions on NATO or create a group of countries that cannot be defended. “We support Ukraine.” However, the price Russia will have to pay for an invasion will be high, he warned once again.
The small Baltic states, in particular, fear the big neighbour. Nevertheless, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics spoke of good consultations. “We are ready to enter into dialogue with Russia, but not at the expense of our values and important principles.”
The US, NATO and the EU have repeatedly threatened heavy consequences for Moscow if they invaded, including sanctions. US President Joe Biden recently promised his Ukrainian counterpart Volodimir Zelensky “resolute” support should Russia invade the country. Biden also conveyed that message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Next week, the issue will not only be discussed in the NATO-Russia meeting. Russian and US deputy ministers will meet in Geneva on Monday. Stoltenberg promised that the US would consult European allies. A consultation is also planned at the OSCE.