Alliance chief says NATO is ready for conflict in Europe

NATO warned Moscow to abandon its belligerent foreign policy and cooperate with the West or face a military coalition prepared for conflict, on the eve of a week nervous diplomacy Designed to avoid a Russian attack on Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the U.S.-led defense pact is ready for “a new armed conflict in Europe” if talks fail, as Western officials are ready to negotiate with Moscow. Downsizing military exercises, arms control and a commitment not to deploy U.S. missiles in Ukraine.

“I know the history of Russia. They have been in conflict with their neighbours for centuries,” he told the Financial Times. “[But] Russia has another option: cooperation, with NATO. “

Russia has deployed around 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border in recent months, sparking plans to attack it. fresh attack About the country it invaded in 2014 when it annexed Crimea.

President Vladimir Putin has denied any plans for an invasion.But he warned that if the US and NATO ignore Moscow’s Call for new defense deal This would severely reduce the capabilities of the United States and NATO in Europe. Russia claims these capabilities pose a threat to its borders.

“It is possible to find a path together, a political way forward, that can also address Russia’s concerns . . . but there is still a risk of conflict,” Stoltenberg said in an interview. “NATO’s deterrent is credible and strong . . . we must hope and strive for the best, but also prepare for the worst.”

His warning came ahead of official talks between Russian and U.S. officials in Geneva on Monday, followed by a meeting of the 30-member NATO alliance and a Russian delegation on Wednesday. A third meeting, hosted by the wider Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is scheduled for Thursday.

Russia’s demands include a ban on Ukraine and other countries from joining NATO, and the Kremlin’s veto of alliance activities by member states that joined after the collapse of the Soviet Union.Stoltenberg said these two is unacceptable Because they violate NATO’s “core principles” of providing membership to all and defending allies equally.

Instead, Stoltenberg said, the United States and NATO are prepared to discuss possible risk mitigation measures with Russia, “such as arms control, efforts to increase the transparency of military activities, exercises, and communication lines.”

A senior Biden administration official said ahead of the talks that ruling out U.S. missile deployments in Ukraine and discussing broader European missile system rules are two areas where Washington sees a possible deal, adding that it would depend on “Russia’s willingness to make a deal.” Reciprocal Commitment”.

The U.S. is also “willing to explore the possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope of trade” [military] exercises, including strategic bomber and land-based exercises near each other’s territory,” the official said, adding that “there will be no firm commitments in Geneva”.

Washington has vehemently denied media reports that it could offer to withdraw some troops stationed in Eastern Europe in exchange for a reduction in Russia’s deployment along the Ukrainian border. Instead, officials say the United States and other NATO allies are ready to increase that presence if Putin takes any military action.

The United States, the European Union and other Western partners have warned they will impose financial sanctions on Russia in the event of a military escalation. Officials said yesterday that the United States was ready to “immediately inflict a heavy and overwhelming cost on the Russian economy”.

The United States is also preparing to impose potential trade restrictions on Russia and has been discussing the possibility of a range of export controls with allies and partners in Europe and Asia, according to people familiar with the White House’s thinking.

While the Kremlin said it hoped the talks would resolve the issue quickly, Stoltenberg said he expected it would take a “series of meetings” to find an outcome acceptable to either side.

“We are ready to fight for a better relationship,” said Norway’s former prime minister. “We have shown before that we can compromise and find solutions with Russia.”

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