RIGA - Russia has prematurely decided to sever diplomatic ties with NATO, but the alliance is calling on the country to reverse the decision and rejoin the NATO-Russia Council in the name of peace and security, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at a news conference in Riga last night.
He noted that yesterday there were extensive discussions between NATO foreign ministers on three issues - the concentration of Russian military forces near Ukraine, the activities of the Alexander Lukashenko regime, and NATO's leading role in arms control.
Stoltenberg pointed out that the situation in and around Ukraine is still fluid and unpredictable. It is also unclear about Russia's intentions.
"We see a concentration of forces that is unfounded and unexplained. It is also accompanied by heightened rhetoric and misinformation. We know that Russia has used force against Ukraine and other neighbors in the past. We are united in our intention to deter Russia from any further aggressive actions," the NATO secretary general said.
The foreign ministers call on Russia to be transparent, to de-escalate the situation and to ease tensions. Stoltenberg pointed out that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine will have a high price and serious political and economic consequences.
"The ministers made it clear that there should be no misunderstanding about NATO's commitment. We all stand together to protect and defend all our allies. We will continue to take an active role in ensuring that we have all the necessary plans in place. At the same time, we will continue to ensure political and practical support for our partner, Ukraine," said Stoltenberg.
He explained that NATO would still maintain a dual approach to Russia - a defense and deterrence approach to Russia's aggressive behavior.
The ministers also discussed the situation at the external borders of NATO and the European Union (EU) and the actions of the Lukashenko regime - to use vulnerable people to put pressure on Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Stoltenberg emphasized that this was cynical and inhumane, and that NATO ministers had made clear their support and solidarity with the allies affected. He also said that NATO was working closely with the EU to counter the hybrid campaign.
According to the NATO Secretary General, the foreign ministers also discussed arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He emphasized that this was a priority for NATO, as the Alliance supported a world without nuclear weapons and had significantly reduced its nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War.
"We also support key arms control agreements. We are seeing worrying trends. Russia and China are significantly increasing their arsenals and agreements are being undermined. NATO Allies are committed to continuing our efforts to strengthen arms control. We live in a dangerous world, we need greater predictability and transparency," said Stoltenberg.
He said that the ministers would continue to discuss the Alliance's next strategic concept, which is scheduled to be adopted at the NATO Summit in Madrid next year. According to Stoltenberg, the concept will reflect the new security environment, reaffirm the Alliance's unity and values, and continue to adapt.