NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeated a warning that Russia has assembled combat-ready troops, tanks, and heavy military equipment near its border with Ukraine and cautioned Moscow that any force against its neighbor would incur “costs.”
Reports of a Russian buildup of more than 90,000 troops recently prompted the United States and Germany to reiterate their support for Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity.
“If Russia uses force against Ukraine that will have costs, that would have consequences,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.
Moscow has denied direct involvement in Kyiv’s seven-year war with separatists in eastern Ukraine despite overwhelming evidence of Russian troop and other assistance. It has downplayed the recent reports of its troop movements as an internal matter.
“This is the second time this year that Russia has amassed a large and unusual concentration of forces in the region,” Stoltenberg said in an allusion to a purported buildup in the spring that eased soon after a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden in June.
Russia this week launched military drills in the Black Sea region near Ukraine.
Earlier on November 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his country was prepared for any Russian escalation and alleged that unidentified Russians and Ukrainians were plotting to overthrow his government next week.
Russia has recently stepped up its involvement in an ongoing feud between Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the West since a highly criticized Belarusian presidential election in 2020.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO’s 29 other foreign ministers are scheduled to gather in Latvia on November 30, with Russia’s activities high on the agenda.
Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are both expected to attend an OSCE ministerial meeting on December 2-3.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried said on November 26 that a key focus of Blinken’s European trip next week would be how to respond to challenges including Russia and Belarus.