Nato foreign ministers had decided to strengthen co-ordination and information sharing with non-member states Finland and Sweden, the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a briefing on March 4.
Both countries are now taking part in all Nato consultations about the crisis.
Stoltenberg, referring to the war on Ukraine by Russia acting on the orders of Vladimir Putin, said that the Kremlin’s ambition was to re-create a sphere of influence and deny other countries the right to choose their own path.
“So ministers discussed the need to support partners who may be at risk. Including Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Stoltenberg said.
He said that Nato’s foreign ministers had agreed that Nato’s relationship with Russia “has fundamentally changed for the long term”.
“But we remain committed to keeping channels for diplomacy and de-confliction open. To avoid any unintended escalation, misunderstanding, or miscalculation,” Stoltenberg said.
He said that Nato Allies had stepped up support for Ukraine: “Helping to uphold the country’s right of self-defence, as enshrined in the UN Charter”.
Emphasising a point that he has made practically on a daily basis, more than once a day on occasion, since Putin’s latest aggression against Ukraine began, Stoltenberg said: “Nato is a defensive Alliance”
.“Our core task is to keep our thirty nations safe,” Stoltenberg said.
“We are not part of this conflict. And we have a responsibility to ensure it does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine.
“Because that would be even more devastating and more dangerous. With even more human suffering.”
Nato is not seeking a war with Russia, Stoltenberg said.
The Nato foreign ministers meeting also involved the EU foreign policy chief and the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland.
It was followed by a special meeting of EU foreign ministers, with additional participants including US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Stoltenberg and, joining via video link, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba.
In a joint statement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US Secretary of State Blinken said: “We have together designed, developed and deployed sanctions in record time, sanctions that demonstrate our determination to make Putin pay a price for his war. We do not take these measures lightly, but it is clear we need to act”.
With these measures, Russia’s central bank could not use a significant share of its reserves to defend the rouble, now in free fall, the joint statement said.
The Russian central bank had had to raise interest rates to 20 per cent, stoking inflation, Von der Leyen and Blinken said.
“Significant commercial banks are cut-off from global markets and from SWIFT, curtailing their ability to finance the economy.
“The stock exchange in Moscow remains closed since the beginning of this week.
“One after another, Western companies announce their own measures, stopping production, investment and sales.”
The joint statement said that EU-US cooperation was at the core of this effective response, and it had pulled together an ever-growing number of countries that were applying identical or similar sanctions.
“Our G7 partners, UK, Canada and Japan, but also countries like Norway, Switzerland, South Korea, Australia. By now, over 40 countries partially or completely aligned with our sanctions,” the Von der Leyen-Blinken statement said.
(Photo of Stoltenberg: Nato)
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