The words were again very harsh when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met the world press on Wednesday of this week.
Putin must stop this war now. Moscow should not be in doubt – NATO does not tolerate attacks on member states and sovereign territories.
Stoltenberg came straight from the NATO meeting, where the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine were on the agenda.
A war that arouses condemnation throughout Europe, indeed throughout the Western world. War puts Stoltenberg on the podium, almost daily – as head of NATO, Russia’s historical archenemy in the post-war period.
There are many considerations that must be balanced. NATO countries can provide support, humanitarian aid and weapons to Ukraine, but a response to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for a no-fly zone over the attacked country is out of reach for now.
It is NATO’s responsibility to ensure that the war does not escalate outside Ukraine. Stoltenberg says it could be much worse if NATO took measures to make this all-out war between Russia and NATO.
Thus, the West’s initial response to the invasion was to impose fierce economic sanctions against Russia and to ship military equipment and weapons to Ukraine.
A severe verbal attack.
US President Joe Biden this week took the step of calling Vladimir Putin a war criminal, a statement the Kremlin called “unforgivable.”
Stoltenberg also fired several bursts at the Russian president.
When the war in Ukraine was a reality just over three weeks ago, the head of NATO was quickly on the scene.
Peace is broken.
– This is a brutal act of war. Russia’s leaders must take full responsibility.
Vladimir Putin is trying to use force to write about history.
Putin, too, has been crystal clear in his vagaries. Nearly three months before the massive invasion of Ukraine, he warned:
NATO’s deployment of weapons or forces in Ukraine will lead to a strong response. Russia will act if the NATO country crosses the “red lines” of Ukraine
Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Russian president expressed strong dissatisfaction with harsh statements from the West.
– Western countries were not satisfied with unfriendly actions against our country in the economic field. Putin said that high-ranking officials of the main NATO countries have made aggressive statements regarding our country.
Putin also described the economic sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine as “like declaring war”.
Perhaps many were intimidated when Putin announced that he had put Russia’s nuclear-weapon forces on combat alert.
Russia’s response will come immediately and lead to consequences unparalleled in history. It was said: We are ready for any development Kremlin sites.
Stoltenberg described Putin’s rhetoric on nuclear weapons as “dangerous and untenable”.
When Jens Stoltenberg became NATO Secretary General on October 1, 2014, relations between Russia and NATO were already very impressive.
Earlier, when Stoltenberg was Prime Minister of Norway, he had a more constructive relationship with Vladimir Putin.
In the 2016 book My Story, Stoltenberg says he had secret talks with the Russian president as prime minister.
In an interview with Russia’s state channel Rossiya in April 2014, President Vladimir Putin stated that he had a good relationship, also personally, with Jens Stoltenberg, who was then the next Secretary General of NATO.
However, there should not be much dialogue between Putin and Stoltenberg, in his new role as head of NATO.
Relations between Russia and NATO were severely strained, when Putin’s Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and backed rebels in the east of the country.
– I believe in dialogue with Russia. If the connection is correct, then, of course, I am also ready to meet with President Vladimir Putin, Stoltenberg said in an interview with the German news agency DPA in December 2019.
Especially when it is difficult to sit at the same table.
However, it became clear from the interview that Stoltenberg had never met Putin in Moscow as the head of NATO.
– When I first received an inquiry in January 2014 about taking up the post of Secretary-General, no one foresaw the crisis in Ukraine, Jens Stoltenberg said, according to Khronowhen he visited the University of Copenhagen in April 2015.
He was already very concerned about Putin’s behavior in Ukraine.
– It is not only dangerous, because the annexation of Crimea destabilizes Ukraine, but also because it is part of a pattern. Russia used military force in Georgia. A significant rearmament took place on the Russian side. There are many nuclear weapons in their speech. They are conducting several unannounced military maneuvers. When you add that up, Stoltenberg said, NATO has to move.
– provoke Russia
Putin legitimizes his entry into Ukraine with the need for de-Nazification and demilitarization of the country. This has been dismissed as misinformation and propaganda.
However, for a long time the Russian president was worried – and expressed strong dissatisfaction – that NATO was moving east and getting closer and closer to Russia’s borders.
– President Putin wants to reduce NATO on the Russian border. Get more NATO. He wants to divide Europe and North America, but we are more united than ever, as Jens Stoltenberg stated recently after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, Putin’s concerns are met with understanding among some critical voices in the West.
American political analyst John Mearsheimer believes that NATO and Western countries bear the responsibility of provoking Russia to attack Ukraine.
In an interview with New Yorker Recently, he clarified on this.
– I think the problems began in April 2008, at the NATO summit in Bucharest, where NATO stated that Ukraine and Georgia would become part of NATO. Mearsheimer said the Russians made it clear at the time that they saw this as an existential threat.
The political expert explains that in recent years, the West has continued to work to make Ukraine a liberal, pro-American democracy, which is by no means music to Putin’s ears.
Blame it on NATO
In his book “One inch”. America, Russia and the Post-Cold War Dilemma “American historian and writer Mary Elise Sarrott discusses what really happened when the peace ‘everyone’ hoped for was lost with the fall of communism.
Sarout goes on to claim that leading US and European politicians had “promised” that NATO would not accelerate so rapidly eastward when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated.
As Sarout sees it, the rapid expansions of NATO east of the Cold War geographical dividing lines are the true basis of the ongoing conflict between the West and Russia today, he writes Agenda magazine.
Holtsmark, a Russian expert and professor of history in the Department of Defense Studies at the Norwegian Defense College, does not believe that NATO’s expansion to the east is the reason for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
He notes that Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of the Soviet Union, never received a promise that NATO would not expand eastward.
Gorbachev may have made an impression on this, but he himself denied that he had received such a promise, says Holtsmark.
The professor explained that the former Warsaw Pact countries and the former Soviet Union countries gradually gained their voice.
These countries witnessed Russia’s brutality in Chechnya in 1994-1995, and ideas about EU and NATO membership arose.
– Many in the West warned against this, but in return there was talk of independent states. Should the great powers of the West decide the fate of the small states? Holtsmark asks and adds:
Nor is it about the ability of NATO or the West to provide permanent guarantees that the alliance will not expand. In fact, Russia orally accepted eastern expansion several times, Holtsmark notes.
The rhetoric that NATO threatens Russia is believed to be a Putin phenomenon.
– This is not what the conflict is about. When Putin built forces along the Ukrainian border in the spring of 2021, he realized that NATO wanted to strengthen its presence in Eastern Europe. Holtsmark says he also understands the membership discussions in Sweden and Finland.
The Russian expert believes that Putin’s motive is simply control of Ukraine.
Holtsmark believes that the series of impossible Russian demands made by NATO in December 2021, which, among other things, might mean that Norway cannot obtain the F-35, provided Putin in defense of his aggression against Ukraine.
– He should have woken up
– We should all have woken up in July of last year, when Putin started talking about Ukraine not really an independent country. He was on his way to one goal: Ukraine must be destroyed.
The simple and perfectly rational explanation for this, according to Holzmark, is that Putin wants to turn Ukraine into Belarus.
Ukraine has 42 million slaves, many of whom have relatives in Russia. A prosperous, democratic Ukraine facing the West is an unacceptable idea of an authoritarian Russia doomed to failure. He cannot see Ukraine turn into a mirror image of all that Russia does not have. Putin believes he needs to stop this while there is still time.
Holtsmark, however, believes the Russian president miscalculated.
– He thought that a steak would fix our children in two or three days. He had to appoint a new government, and the people of Ukraine will rejoice. Putin thought Western Europe was in his pocket with gas exports.
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