NATO's Stoltenberg Hopes for Fruitful Talks With Moscow, Yet Warns of 'Russian Attack'
05:15 GMT 10.01.2022 (Updated: 05:17 GMT 10.01.2022)
© Sputnik / Aleksei VitvitskyNATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is holding a press-conference.
© Sputnik / Aleksei Vitvitsky/
NATO's outgoing Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has pledged to “listen to Russia's views and concerns” in the security field, yet threatened with further sanctions and emphasised that the danger of conflict was “very real”.
Ahead of meetings between Russia and the US, NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe this week to discuss Moscow's security concerns, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his hopes for fruitful talks and a peaceful solution to the ongoing standoff.
“We are pleased that the Russians are willing to meet us in the NATO-Russia Council next week, and we will enter those meetings with a real desire to bring about a political solution and prevent military conflict in Ukraine”, Stoltenberg told national Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “We will listen to Russia's views and concerns. But we can not compromise on basic principles, including the principle that all European countries are free to choose their own path. Of course, this also applies to Ukraine”, he added.
Stoltenberg argued it was a “positive sign” that Russia is willing to sit down and meet with the NATO countries.
“I don't think all problems will be solved at the NATO-Russia meeting next week. But hopefully it can start a process, where we can also address topics such as armaments control,” the secretary general said.
According to Stoltenberg, though, it is Russia that has “chosen confrontation”, notwithstanding several waves of NATO expansion eastward despite explicit promises not to do so and an overwhelming Cold War-throwback narrative intended to demonise Russia frequently utilised by the member states.
Citing the military build-up on Russia's side, a “very threatening rhetoric” with warnings of military consequences and Russia's “willingness to use military force”, Stoltenberg concluded that NATO must be prepared for the talks to fail and for “new military attacks from Russia”, emphasising that the danger of conflict is “real”.
Stoltenberg also reiterated NATO's perceived obligation to help Ukraine, a non-member, to defend itself, be it with military gear or training, and threatened with further sanctions.
“We are sending a clear message to Russia: It will have major economic consequences for them if they step in”, the secretary general said.
Nevertheless, Stoltenberg ventured that mutual agreements are not impossible, as the talks themselves can be seen as a cautious step in the right direction.
“When I joined NATO in 2014, the dialogue with Russia had stopped completely. Then we got it running again, and that was important. Because I believe in dialogue with Russia. Norway has shown that it is possible to talk to the Russians, through cooperation in the north over many decades. It is possible to make agreements and get things done together,” Stoltenberg ventured.
Russia's twin proposals
In mid-December, Russia published two draft proposals on security guarantees between Russia, the US and NATO. The proposed agreements call on both countries not to deploy forces and missiles in areas where they might be perceived as a threat to one another's national security, to limit the deployment of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, and halt NATO's eastward expansion.
Russian officials have stressed that the agreements should be “evaluated in their totality” and not seen as a “menu, where it is possible to pick and choose” individual components as one pleases.
However, some of these demands have been dismissed by Western diplomats and politicians as “unlikely”, including by the very same Stoltenberg, who said NATO won't compromise its membership principle.