BRUSSELS ( Associated Press) – Tensions between Russia and the West escalated on Monday, with NATO outlining a range of possible troop and ship deployments and Ireland warning that the upcoming Russian war games off its coast would not be welcome. , while concerns are high that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine. ,
The Western Alliance’s statement summarized steps already announced by individual member states – but reinstating them under the NATO banner appeared to be aimed at showing the coalition’s resolve. It was one of a series of announcements that indicated the West was intensifying its rhetoric in the information war with Ukraine standoff.,
Russia has gathered an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and is demanding that NATO promises that it will never allow Ukraine to join and that other actions, such as deploying coalition troops to former Soviet bloc countries, be curtailed. Some of these, such as any pledge to permanently impose sanctions on Ukraine, are non-starters for NATO – creating a seemingly irresistible standoff that many fear may only end in war.
Russia denies that it is planning an offensive, and has said the Western allegations are only a cover for NATO’s own planned provocation. Recent days have seen high level diplomacy Which failed to reach any success and maneuvers on both sides.
NATO said on Monday it was increasing its “deterrent capability” in the Baltic Sea region. Denmark is sending a warship and deploying F-16 fighters to Lithuania; Spain is sending four fighter jets and three ships to the Black Sea to Bulgaria to join NATO naval forces; And France is ready to send troops to Romania. The Netherlands also plans to send two F-35 fighters to Bulgaria from April.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the coalition would “take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies.” He added: “We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defence.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov alleged that it was NATO and the US that were behind the “escalation of tension” in Europe, not Russia.
“All this is not happening because of what we are doing Russia. It is happening because of what NATO, what America is doing,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters. He also criticized US media reports. Citing that Russia was expelling its diplomats from Ukraine, some officials in Moscow denied.
The NATO announcement came as EU foreign ministers sought a new show of unity in support of Ukraine, and paper over concerns about division on the best way to counter any Russian aggression.
In a statement, ministers said the EU had intensified preparations for the approval and warned that “any military attack by Russia against Ukraine would have massive consequences and serious costs.”
Separately, the European Union has also committed to increasing financial aid for beleaguered Ukraine, which it promises to proceed through a special package of 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) in loans and grants as soon as possible.
The West has been watching Russian military activities and war games in Belarus nervously for any signs that a new invasion of Ukraine is imminent. Russia has already invaded Ukraine once, occupying the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Moscow has also backed Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists fighting the Kiev government in the Donbass region. Nearly 14,000 people have been killed and still simmering in fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Asked if the EU would follow the US move And with European embassies in Ukraine ordering the families of personnel to leave, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “We are not going to do the same thing.” He said he would like to hear from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about that decision.
Britain also announced on Monday that it was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its embassy in Kiev. The Foreign Office said the move was “in response to a growing threat from Russia”.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said the US decision was “a premature step” and a sign of “extreme caution”. He said that to destabilize Ukraine, Russia is sowing panic among Ukrainians and foreigners.
Germany has not issued an order, but has announced that families of embassy staff can leave if they wish. Foreign Minister Annalena Barbok stressed that “we must not contribute to further destabilization of the situation; we must clearly continue to support the government of Ukraine and above all maintain the stability of the country.”
Arriving at an EU meeting, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he would inform his counterparts that Russia plans to hold war games 240 kilometers (150 mi) off the south-west coast of Ireland – in international waters but Within the exclusive economic zone of Ireland.
“This is not the time to increase military activity and tensions with Ukraine and in the context of what is happening in Ukraine.” Coveney said. “The fact that they are choosing to do it on the western borders, if you like, of the European Union, off the Irish coast, is something that is not welcome in our view.”
Some of Russia’s closest member states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have confirmed they plan to send US-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, a move backed by the United States.
But questions have been raised about how integrated the EU is. Diverse political, business and energy interests have long divided the 27-nation bloc in its approach to Moscow. About 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports come from Russia, much of it via pipelines into Ukraine – and many are worried about being cut off from that supply in the winter, with prices already rising. .
The two major EU powers appear most cautious. French President Emmanuel Macron has renewed a previously rejected call for an EU summit with Putin.
Late on Saturday, the head of the German Navy, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, criticized for saying that Ukraine would not recapture the Crimean peninsula, and for suggesting that Putin deserves “honour”, resigned. Gave.
Still, diplomats and officials said tougher sanctions were being imposed with the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. They were reluctant to say what measures might be in place or what action by Russia might trigger them, but said they would come within days of any attack.
This story has been updated to correct that France has said it is ready to send troops to Romania, not Bulgaria. ,
Associated Press writers Yuras Karamanau in Kiev, Ukraine, Dasha Litvinova in Moscow, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Mike Korder in The Hague and Raf Kaisert in Brussels contributed.