NATO responded to the accusation of the Ukrainian authorities of whipping up panic around a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that he was receiving a lot of intelligence showing the apparent continuation of Moscow's build-up of forces near the Ukrainian border and it would be "irresponsible" not to react to the largest military buildup in Europe since World War Two.
"If NATO didn’t react to that, then I think it would have been justified to criticize us for being passive. We are, as I said, describing the facts, but we’re also then conveying a message to Russia to deter them from using those forces. We are consulting very closely with Ukraine, at many different levels, also here in Brussels. And we are describing a way out, providing Russia an opportunity to sit down," Stoltenberg said in an interview with The Washington Post.
The Secretary General added that he had regular contact with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. According to him, the Ukrainian side "now also sees the consequences of just the heightening tensions."
"For instance, when it comes to the financial flows out of Ukraine, and that's a serious concern. That's already the kind of price they have to pay for a Russian military buildup in and around Ukraine," Stoltenberg noted.
He stressed that by strengthening its eastern flank, NATO is not trying to provoke a conflict, the main goal is to prevent it. He once again warned that a Russian invasion would be disastrous for Moscow. Stoltenberg also reiterated that the alliance would not accept an ultimatum from Russia, including on the issue of Ukraine's membership in NATO.
Context. Recall: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a briefing for foreign journalists, said that the panic whipped up around the NATO and US invasion was hitting the Ukrainian economy.