Following talks with Russian officials, the secretary-general of Nato has warned there is a “real risk” of new armed conflict in Europe over the amassing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Jens Stoltenberg was speaking after the meeting in Brussels between the alliance and representatives of Russia, as fears grow that the latter could be preparing to invade Ukraine.
Over the last few months, Russia has moved around 100,000 troops near the border with the former Soviet republic, although it denies any plans to cross over into the country. Moscow has issued a set of demands it wants to be met before it will move back from the country lines, however. These include a ban on Ukraine joining the alliance, a ban on further expansion of NATO, and an end to the alliance’s activity in the central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997, reports Sky News.
The demands have previously been called ‘unacceptable’ and were not welcomed by NATO after four hours of talks by the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday 12 January.
Mr Stoltenberg said there is a “real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe” but that the alliance “will do what we can to prevent any such scenario”. He added: “If Russia once again uses force against Ukraine and further invades Ukraine, then we have to seriously look into the need to further increase our presence in the eastern part of the alliance.”
“There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia. Our differences will not be easy to bridge, but it is a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia sat down around the same table and engaged on substantive topics.”
Mr Stoltenberg said that the only parties that would decide on Ukraine becoming a member of the alliance are Ukraine and NATO. However, he did say that the alliance was ready for more talks with Moscow on issues such as arms control and missile deployments.
Russia’s representative at the talks – its foreign minister Alexander Grushko – is due to comment later today.
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