8 January 2022
NATO Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary virtual meeting on 7 January 2022 to discuss Russia’s alleged military build-up in and around Ukraine, and the implications for European security.
Speaking following the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “NATO will engage in dialogue with Russia in good faith and on substance,” Stoltenberg said in his opening remarks at a news conference. “But we must also be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy will fail”.
The meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers came ahead of a series of diplomatic engagements next week with Russia, including a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on 12 January. The Secretary General said, “We are always ready to listen to Russian concerns and NATO will make every effort to find a political way forward. But for dialogue to be meaningful, it must also address Allies’ long-standing concerns about Russia’s actions. It must be based on the core principles of European security and it must take place in consultation with Ukraine. We are also consulting closely with other key partners, such as Georgia, Moldova, Finland and Sweden, as well as the European Union”.
When pressed for details of NATO’s response should talks fail, Stoltenberg insisted NATO would be ready to match any threat. “I will not go into the exact numbers of how many troops we can move where, and when,” he said. “But I will say that we have significant capabilities. We have troops, we have forces. We have the readiness. We have the plans to be able to defend, protect all allies, and we are constantly adapting, and also actually investing more now than we had done for many years in modernizing our military capabilities to make sure that we preserve peace in Europe”.
When asked about the number and the character of the Russian forces on the border with Ukraine, he added, “The Russian military build-up has not stopped, it continues. And they are gradually building up with more forces, more capabilities, we see armored units, we see artillery, we see combat ready troops, we see electronic warfare equipment, and we see a lot of different military capabilities, which are gradually building up in and around Ukraine”.
According to a NATO news release, the Foreign Ministers stressed that any further aggression against Ukraine would have significant consequences and carry a heavy price for Russia. The Alliance continues “to stand with Ukraine and fully support its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the principle that all countries have the right to decide on their own path and their alliances”.
Separately, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis was still possible and preferable, but warned that progress was impossible while Russia continued to escalate pressure along the border.