NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday (30 November) called on Russia to de-escalate, warning they stand in solidarity with Ukraine. Speaking from Latvia’s capital Riga where NATO foreign ministers have gathered for a two-day summit, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that” we see Russian military build-up, we see heavy armour, we see drones, and combat-ready troops” along the Ukrainian border but this major military activity” is unprovoked and unexplained.” Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the Russian troop movements ‘unusual’ and added any escalatory actions by Russia would be of “great concern” to Washington. Blinken was expected to brief his counterparts on Washington’s intelligence relating to the unfolding situation. Russia will pay a high price for any new military aggression against Ukraine, NATO and the United States warned on Tuesday, as the alliance foreign ministers were discussing Moscow’s intentions for assembled troops on the border. Adding to the disquiet, Belarus on Monday (29 November) announced joint military drills with Russia along its own border with Ukraine.
In response, Moscow has dismissed Ukraine’s and NATO’s suggestions that it is preparing for an attack as inflammatory, stating said it does not threaten anyone and defends its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it wishes. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned NATO countries that deploying weapons or soldiers to Ukraine would cross a “red line” for Russia and trigger a strong response, including a potential deployment of Russian missiles targeting Europe. Speaking at an investment forum in Moscow, Putin also voiced concern about military drills being held near Russia’s borders and said the country was also developing a new hypersonic missile that would soon be in its arsenal.“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and 5 minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed – just imagine,” Putin said.“Creating such threats (in Ukraine) poses red lines for us,” he added.
“Russia needs to be transparent, and they need to reduce tensions, and de-escalate,” Stolten bergalso said during the summit in Riga. He stressed that although Ukraine is not a NATO ally — and therefore does not fall under Article 5 for Collective Defense — it is “a highly valued partner”.”We provide support, political, practical support. Allies provide training, capacity building, equipment, and I am absolutely certain that allies will recommit and reconfirm their strong support to Ukraine also during the meeting today,” he said. Kyiv meanwhile described the situation along its border and the migrant crisis between Belarus and the EU as “absolutely connected” and that Russia has played a major part in orchestrating both.“There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation, Ukraine,” Stoltenberg warned.
Meanwhile, as NATO’s chief visited allied troops in Latvia, Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said that the Baltic country needs a permanent U.S. military presence to deter Russia and wants to boost its defences with US Patriot missiles. As the alliance is alarmed by a Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, “we need additional international assistance,” Pabriks told the media. “We would like to have a permanent United States (military) presence in our country. And sea and air defence means basically going down to such systems as Patriot (surface-to-air missiles).”NATO troops were rehearsing battle skills in a snowy Latvian woodland with camouflaged tanks and live rounds, with 1,500 troops seeking to stop an attack on Riga by disrupting and stalling the unidentified adversary’s advance north of the city.“Deterrence is critical,” said Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John Benson, commander of the NATO battle group in Latvia.