Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on February 15 that there were signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue, saying that this “gives grounds for cautious optimism”.
At the same time, Stoltenberg said that there was no indication of any de-escalation on the ground.
Stoltenberg’s comments came against the background of, as Deutsche Welle reported on February 15, the Russian Defence Ministry having said that some of its forces were set to return to permanent deployment sites, although “large scale” drills were continuing
“Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine, unprecedented since the Cold War,” Stoltenberg said ahead of a meeting of Nato defence ministers.
“Everything is now in place for a new attack, but Russia still has time to step back from the brink,” Stoltenberg said, urging Russia “to stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution to the crisis”.
“We are ready to discuss Nato-Russia relations, European security including the situation in and around Ukraine and risk reduction, transparency and arms control,” he said.
“But we will not compromise on our core principles. Every nation has the right to choose its own path.”
He said that there would never be first class and second class members of Nato. This was a reference to one of Moscow’s demands, the removal of Nato deployments on the alliance’s eastern flank.
Stoltenberg said that Nato had 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.”
Nato defence ministers would address the need to further increase its defensive posture, Stoltenberg said.
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