NATO signals support for Ukraine amid Russia threat

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KYIV, Ukraine Faced with a building threat from Russia, the Ukrainian president demanded a security guarantee from a NATO leader at a meeting on Thursday, with renewed assurances that his country could eventually join the military alliance despite strong opposition from Russian neighbors.

Although the timing of President Jens Stoltenberg’s statement sent a clear message of support, it did not come with the commitment of military assistance to Ukrainian authorities to prevent Russian military incursions or to defend themselves. .

Standing next to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zhelensky at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Mr. Stoltenberg denounced the Russian military structure, but said nothing about providing additional weapons or troops to Ukraine. He referred to the 2008 summit in which NATO members pledged membership to Ukraine and Georgia.

“We stand by that,” he said, noting the deadline.

Ukraine has been locked in a half-war with Russian-backed separatists since 2014, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Although there is no indication that it will be ready to join NATO at any time, Russian leaders argue that it is a threat to Moscow’s national security.

According to Western and Ukrainian officials, more than 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed in the northern, eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, along with heavy artillery and tank units, as well as rocket-propelled grenades capable of launching deep-range missiles. Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies predict that an infiltration could begin in weeks or months.

Russia annexed the country to NATO in 2014, following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and continued military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Zhelensky said Thursday. He suggested that the coalition was interested in supporting Ukraine at this time because if Russia attacked, NATO could be dragged into whether it wanted to or not.

“NATO owes nothing to Ukraine,” he said. Zhelensky said.

“If our military cannot withstand, NATO must take action to curb any fallout from the Russian offensive that could affect its member states,” he said.

The United States, the European Union and NATO have all said that any new Russian incursion into Ukraine will face severe, intensified and extraordinary sanctions, including the possibility of killing Germany’s favorite Kremlin project, the North Stream 2 gas pipeline. It crosses Ukraine. The United States has also suggested that NATO increase its troop presence near Russia’s borders.

EU leaders hosting the summit on Thursday, Mr. Met Zhelensky. At their Thursday meeting, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is expected to issue a stern warning to Russia about “massive consequences and serious costs” if he launches a new military operation against Ukraine.

Mr. There is no indication that Putin has decided whether to launch such an attack, and there is no consensus among Western officials and analysts as to why he now wants to do so. But for most of this year, Mr. Putin remained steadfast in Ukraine, angry that a country so close to Russia in culture, language and geography had strayed too far from its orbit.

At the very least, according to observers, the military structure appears to be part of an effort to pressure NATO nations to reverse what the Kremlin views as a plot to seize Ukraine.

NATO considers the idea of ​​such a conspiracy absurd.

Dozens of NATO countries have military advisers in Ukraine, including 150 US special forces and national guards. The United States alone has spent $ 2.5 billion on defense assistance, including high-tech surveillance equipment, armored patrol boats and anti-javelin tank systems.

But since Ukraine is not a NATO member, the coalition has no responsibility to defend itself in the event of an attack.

This did not bring visible comfort to the Kremlin, however, which described NATO operations in Ukraine as an existential threat, even as Russian leaders rejected the threat posed by their own military build-up on the Ukrainian border.

In telephone conversations with the leaders of Britain and France this week, along with two major members of NATO, and the President of Finland, a close NATO partner, Mr. NATO’s expansion, especially in connection with the extension of members to Ukraine.

Mr. Putin sent a similar message to President Biden in a video call last week aimed at easing tensions in Ukraine.

But he said NATO should impose tougher limits on expansion. Western officials say Putin’s demand is a start

“NATO support for Ukraine is not a threat to Russia,” he said. Stoltenberg said Thursday. “Ukraine has the right to choose its own security arrangements. This is the basic principle of European security. And only Ukraine and the 30 NATO allies will decide whether Ukraine can join NATO.

In the face of such denials, the statements of the Russian leadership have become increasingly militant. Last week, Sergei Ryapkov, deputy foreign minister and key figure in negotiations with the United States, said that while Russia expects a diplomatic solution to the current crisis, “our weapons to normalize the situation” are significant.

“We are confident in the reliability of our defenses and the ability of our armed forces to handle any task, so there is no question here,” he told a news conference.

Recently, Mr. Ukraine was accused of genocide. Russian officials have repeatedly warned that Ukraine could face any attempt to launch a military operation against Russian-backed separatist forces in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, as Putin has accused.

There is no evidence that Ukraine is planning such an operation, nor is there any indication that the Ukrainian military will mobilize troops to counter the Russian structure. However, such allegations have alarmed Ukrainian and Western authorities, who fear that they may eventually try to intervene in the Kremlin’s various excuse.

Mr. Although Putin has not given any indication as to whether he will order new military action in Ukraine, Russian military buildup continues. As of this week, the Ukrainian military says 100,000 troops are stationed within the striking border of the Ukrainian border with more than 1,300 tanks, 1,800 artillery pieces and Iskander-M missile batteries. Ukrainian territory.

Russian troops continue to support a bloody uprising in the eastern part of Ukraine, on the border with the two divided Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

But even more so, military analysts say, is the accumulation of troops and equipment in the north and northeast. In both places, the Russians have deployed an active combat force, which experts say could be used to launch a military operation in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

“If you push towards Kiev, if you are outside the capital, it is not stable for the Ukrainian state,” said Robert Lee, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Ph.D. Candidate for King’s College, London, he is a Russian military expert. “That’s why the forces in the north are a real concern.”

Reported by Steven Erlanger from Brussels.

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