NATO: Russia’s illegal annexation won’t change our support for Kyiv
Brussels, Sep 30 (EFE).- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that Russia’s illegal annexation of four eastern Ukrainian territories mostly occupied by Russian troops “will not change” the commitment of the Atlantic Alliance to support Kyiv.
At a press conference, Stoltenberg said that Russia’s move was the largest annexation of European territory by force since World War II, constituting 15 percent of the territory of Ukraine, an area approximately the size of Portugal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced the incorporation into Russia of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson following referendums in the occupied territories that many Western leaders have called “sham” votes without any legal basis.
“Putin has mobilized hundreds of thousands of more troops, engaged in irresponsible nuclear saber rattling and now illegally annexed more Ukrainian territory,” Stoltenberg said at the press conference.
“Together, this represents the most serious escalation since the start of the war,” he added, going on to say that “NATO reaffirms its unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
He also said the NATO allies remain committed to providing support to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian aggression for “as long as necessary” despite stating that NATO is not directly involved in the war.
The top NATO official emphasized that the alliance partners do not and will not recognize any of the Ukrainian territories as belonging to Russia, adding that the war launched by Moscow against Kyiv is at a “critical” moment due to Putin’s “dangerous” nuclear rhetoric and the Russian leader’s mobilization of hundreds of thousands of additional troops, which he called “the most serious escalation since the start” of the conflict on Feb. 24.
“None of this shows strength. It shows weakness,” said Stoltenberg, adding that the purported annexation is an acknowledgment that the war is not going according to plan and that it has failed to achieve its strategic objectives.
Stoltenberg also commented on the announcement on Friday by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that his country will file an urgent request to be admitted to NATO.
He said that all democratic countries in Europe have the right to ask to be admitted to the Atlantic Alliance, although he made clear that the decision to admit them must be taken by the 30 current members of the organization.
And he also said that Europe must continue supporting Ukraine because “inaction is a great risk” since it would demonstrate to Putin that he can use military force to establish a “sphere of influence” with impunity.
“Russia must understand that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be waged,” said the NATO chief, while going on to warn Moscow that it faces serious consequences if it were to use nuclear weapons.
Putin has threatened to potentially respond with nuclear weapons if territory that he now claims to be part of Russia is attacked, and in response to that the Norwegian politician stressed that if Russia’s annexation is accepted and nuclear saber-rattling is allowed to “stop you from helping Ukraine, then you accept nuclear blackmail.”
Allowing Putin to win in Ukraine would increase the long-term risks for everyone, he said, adding that this is why NATO is currently paying the costs of supporting Ukraine.
With regard to the several recent leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines under the Baltic Sea which transport Russian natural gas to Europe, leaks which the Atlantic Alliance has declared to have been caused by sabotage, Stoltenberg noted that the organization has deployed vessels and aircraft in the Baltic and the North Sea to “send a message” about NATO’s preparation to protect and defend one another and “critical infrastructure.”