7 January, 2022
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said the military alliance will not stop its expansion across Europe, denying demands from Russia amid the ongoing security saga with Ukraine.
“We will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, according to The Associated Press.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last month laid out demands for the U.S. and NATO as part of efforts to ease tensions over Ukraine, where Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops outside its border amid fears of an invasion.
Included in the draft document are asks that the alliance stop all membership plans, including with Ukraine, and to roll back its military deployments near Russia’s borders. The Kremlin also wants guarantees from Washington that the U.S. won’t establish any military bases in former Soviet states that are not part of NATO, nor develop bilateral military cooperation with them.
In exchange, Russia would limit military exercises — a promise the country made through previous international commitments — and stop low-level hostilities, including aircraft buzzing.
With Stoltenberg’s recent comments, however, NATO and the U.S. seem unlikely to take Russia up on its offers when the sides gather Wednesday in Brussels for the first NATO-Russia Council meeting since July 2019.
NATO ambassadors are expected to discuss Putin’s security proposals with Russia’s envoy in person at the meeting.
Stoltenberg said that NATO is willing to discuss arms control but will not allow Putin to restrict how the alliance protects member countries.
He also said NATO is still worried over Russia’s military buildup, which along with its new demands “sends a message that there is a real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe.”
Russia has a track record of violence in recent years, including annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backing a separatist rebellion in the eastern part of the country, a conflict that has left more than 14,000 people dead.