Brussels: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned Russia again that a further military aggression against Ukraine would carry a “high political and economic price”.
Stoltenberg, at the beginning of what he described as an “important week for European security”, highlighted the diplomatic efforts underway in search of a solution to prevent an armed conflict, during a joint press conference with Olga Stefanishyna, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, reports Ninhua news agency.
They spoke ahead of a NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) session and a NATO-Russia Council meeting here on Wednesday.
Stoltenberg said Russia’s agreement to attend the NATO-Russia Council was “a positive signal”.
“We will focus on European security issues, transparency related to military activities, risk reduction and arms control,” he said.
“We are working hard for a peaceful solution… We also need to send a very clear message to Russia that we are united and that there will be severe costs, economic, political costs for Russia if they once again use military force against Ukraine.”
Stefanishyna said Ukraine supported the use of diplomatic channels with Russia to prevent a military escalation, but warned that Russia’s demands for Ukraine to be excluded from future NATO membership were not acceptable.
“We should all realize that Russia’s demands to the allies cannot be considered a negotiating position.”
Russia has repeatedly voiced concern over NATO’s eastward expansion and the alliance’s deployment of weapons systems near its borders.
In a telephone call between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on December 31, the former threatened to take “strong economic and other measures” together with American allies should Moscow “invade” Ukraine, while the latter urged not to “shift responsibility” and asked for guarantees against NATO’s eastward expansion.
Putin noted that imposing wide-ranging sanctions against Moscow in case of a possible escalation of events would be a “grave mistake” and could lead to a major “rupture in Russia-US ties”.