NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia’s recent actions on the war in Ukraine represent “the most serious escalation” since Moscow launched its invasion in February.
Stoltenberg cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s partial military mobilization, his “irresponsible nuclear saber-rattling,” and decrees signed on September 30 illegally annexing more Ukrainian territory.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Stoltenberg condemned the Russian “land grab” of four Ukrainian provinces in decrees signed by Putin earlier at a Kremlin ceremony. He said the move was “illegal and illegitimate,” calling it the “largest attempted annexation of European territory by force since World War II.”
NATO allies “do not, and will not, recognize any of this territory as part of Russia,” he said.
Putin’s move is a sign of weakness, Stoltenberg said, adding that the Russian leader has “utterly failed” in his strategic objectives.
He also said that Russia faces “severe consequences” if it uses nuclear arms in Ukraine, and reaffirmed NATO’s “unwavering support” for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
He said Ukraine has the right to retake Ukrainian territory, and NATO allies support Ukraine’s right to choose its own path.
If Russia were to win in Ukraine, he said it would be catastrophic for the country and dangerous for NATO.
But he remained noncommittal on Ukrainian membership in NATO, which President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine will immediately seek on an expedited basis. Stoltenberg said it is a decision that requires a consensus of all 30 allies, and the focus should remain on helping Kyiv’s war effort. (Radio Free Europe)