Nato is ready for conflict in Europe, says union chief

Nato warned Moscow to abandon its belligerent foreign policy and cooperate with the West or face a fortified military alliance for the conflict, a week before the strong diplomacy to prevent Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, said the US-led defense pact was prepared for “a new armed conflict in Europe” should the talks fail, as Western officials stand ready. for potential discussions with Moscow about downsizing military exercises, arms control and a commitment not to deploy US missiles in Ukraine.

“I am aware of the history of Russia. For centuries, they have experienced conflict with neighboring countries,” he told the Financial Times. “[But] Russia has an alternative: cooperation, working with Nato”.

Russia has deployed about 100,000 troops in locations near the border with Ukraine in recent months, raising fears that it has plans to new attack over a country it invaded in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea.

President Vladimir Putin has denied any invasion plans. But he warned of possible military action if the US and NATO ignored Moscow requirements for new defense agreements that would severely reduce the capabilities of the United States and NATO in Europe. Russia claims those capabilities are a threat to its borders.

“It is possible to find a way together, a political path forward and also to address Russia’s concerns. . . But there continues to be the risk of conflict,” Stoltenberg said in an interview. “Nato’s deterrence is believable and powerful. . . We have to hope and work hard for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

His warning came ahead of formal talks between Russian and American officials in Geneva on Monday, following a meeting of the 30-member NATO alliance and a Russian delegation on Wednesday. A third meeting chaired by the broader Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will take place on Thursday.

Russia’s demands include a ban on Ukraine and other countries joining NATO and a Kremlin veto over coalition activities in member states that joined after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Stoltenberg said both unacceptable because they violated Nato’s “core principle” of providing membership to all and protecting allies equally.

Instead, Stoltenberg said the US and NATO are ready to talk to Russia about possible risk-reduction measures “like arms control, about trying to be more transparent about military operations, exercises and also on lines of communication.”

A senior Biden administration official said ahead of the talks that would cancel the US missile deployment in Ukraine and discuss broader rules for missile systems in Europe were two areas. with which Washington may have an agreement. commitment to reciprocity”.

The United States is also “ready to explore the possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope of [military] The exercises, which include both strategic bomber exercises near each other’s territories and also land exercises,” the official said, adding that “there will be no firm commitments.” “in Geneva.

Washington has staunchly denied media reports that it might offer to withdraw some troops stationed in Eastern Europe in exchange for a reduction in Russia’s deployment on the Ukrainian border. Instead, officials say the United States and other NATO allies stand ready to increase their presence should Putin take any military action.

The US, EU and other Western partners have also warned that they will impose financial and economic sanctions on Russia in the event of a military escalation, which Western officials say will lead to “major consequences and heavy costs” for Moscow.

While the Kremlin expressed hope for quick solutions from the talks, Stoltenberg said he expected it to take “a series of meetings” to find any outcome acceptable to both sides. receive.

“We are ready to strive for a better relationship,” said the former Norwegian prime minister. “We have proven before that we can compromise and find a solution with Russia.”

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