Nato stands firm on Russia: Nato chief statement in full – No de-escalation seen

Ukraine: Russian tanks drive in cities near border

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While Ukraine is not yet a NATO member and likely won’t be any time soon, the organisation has delivered its full backing amid Russian aggression. Vladimir Putin has gathered a considerable fighting force at the Russian-Ukrainian border, with approximately 130,000 soldiers waiting to execute an “imminent” invasion. NATO has released a statement noting the troop presence has not diminished despite promises from Moscow.

Speaking from a pre-ministerial conference in Brussels this afternoon, Mr Stoltenberg addressed journalists ahead of meetings with NATO defence ministers.

He branded the growing crisis in Ukraine the “most serious” of its kind in Europe for “decades” as he delivered an update on Russian movements.

Initially, he hailed signs from Moscow that “diplomacy should continue”, granting “cautious optimism”.

But he added a caveat, as he observed Russia was not de-escalating.

He said: “So far we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground.

“Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine, unprecedented since the Cold War.

“Everything is now in place for a new attack. But Russia still has time to step back from the brink.

“Stop preparing for war. And start working for a peaceful solution.

“NATO Allies have been very clear that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price.

“We have systematically exposed Russia’s actions, plans and disinformation.”

“To lay bare to the world what Russia is doing and to make it harder for Russia to conduct aggressive actions.

“At the same time, NATO Allies remain ready to engage with Russia.

“On the 26th of January, I invited Russia to a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council.

“We sent concrete proposals for a substantive agenda. To listen to the Russian concerns, share ours, and look for common ground.

“We are ready to discuss NATO-Russia relations, European security including the situation in and around Ukraine and risk reduction, transparency and arms control.

“But we will not compromise on our core principles. Every nation has the right to choose its own path.

“And there will never be first class and second class members of NATO. We are all NATO Allies.

“We have stepped up deterrence and defence across the Alliance. To remove any room for misunderstanding or miscalculation.

“We have deployed more troops, planes, and ships to the eastern part of the Alliance.”

“Increased the readiness of our NATO Response Force. And boosted our battlegroups in the Baltic region.

“Just last week I was in Romania to meet additional US troops deploying together with other Allies.

“A strong demonstration of US commitment to the defence of Europe. From the Black Sea to the Baltic.

“NATO Defence ministers will address the need to further increase our defensive posture.

“And I welcome the offer by France to lead a new NATO battlegroup in Romania.

“Tomorrow, I will also chair a regular meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group.

“Ensuring that our nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective.

“Defence ministers will meet our colleagues from Ukraine and Georgia.

“To discuss the worsening security situation in the Black Sea region.”

“And NATO Allies will reaffirm our strong support for both countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We will also meet with our partners Finland, Sweden and the European Union.

“To continue our close consultations and further strengthen NATO-EU cooperation.

“The current crisis has shown once again how important it is to invest in our defence.

“So ministers will review burden-sharing across the Alliance.

“I welcome that our latest figures show seven consecutive years of increased defence spending across Europe and Canada with 270 billion Dollars extra since 2014.

“And I encourage Allies to continue to invest in our shared security.

“Finally, we will also discuss NATO’s next Strategic Concept, which will be adopted at the Madrid Summit in June.”

“I am confident that Allies will recommit to our core values and to the importance of Europe and North America standing together.”

NATO ministers of defence will meet over the next two days from February 16 to 17.

Mr Stoltenberg will conclude the conference on Thursday with another press briefing, where he will update the general public on diplomacy progress with Russia.

At present, diplomats on the ground in Ukraine believe that their efforts have paid off.

The Ukrainian foreign minister said talks with western allies have helped prevent Russia from making further inroads across their shared border.

Speaking to reporters, Dmytro Kuleba said they managed to “prevent Russia from any further escalation”.

He added the joint pursuit of diplomacy is “continuing to work”.

But tensions have not subsided just yet, as Mr Kuleba added Ukraine would only believe in de-escalation when “we see a withdrawal”.

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