NATO has invited Russia for a new round of talks to “find a diplomatic way forward,” the military alliance’s chief said on Thursday.
“This morning, I have sent a letter to Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov reiterating my invitation to Russia to continue our dialogue in a series of meetings in the NATO-Russia Council to find a diplomatic way forward,” Jens Stoltenberg said in a news conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson following their meeting.
He reaffirmed NATO’s willingness to address Russian concerns and to discuss European security, but stressed that NATO will not compromise on core principles.
He explained that NATO proposed mutual briefings on exercises and nuclear policies, ways to increase transparency and reduce risks in military activities, and work to reduce space and cyber threats.
Stoltenberg warned that European security faces a “dangerous moment” since “the number of Russian forces is going up.”
“The warning time for a possible attack is going down”, he asserted, explaining that in addition to 100,000 troops amassed with enabling capabilities in and around Ukraine, Russia deployed the biggest forces in Belarus since the end of the Cold War.
He stressed that Russia has a choice between a diplomatic solution and confrontation, but in the second case “they will pay a high price, there will be economic sanctions, there will be increased NATO military presence in the east.”
Stoltenberg added that NATO is considering strengthening its posture in the eastern part of the alliance by deploying battle groups in Romania and the Black Sea region, similar to the ones in Poland and the Baltic region.
Last month, NATO rejected Russian demands to withdraw its troops and weapons from eastern Europe and to halt the transatlantic integration of Ukraine in its official reply to draft treaties Russia handed to NATO and the US last December.
The military alliance also offered to re-establish their respective offices in Moscow and in Brussels and urged Russia to start talks on arms control.
The US, with its European allies, has accused Russia of setting the stage for an invasion of Ukraine after concentrating more than 100,000 troops and significant artillery and tanks on the border.
In addition to that, at least 30,000 Russian troops are currently participating in a joint military drill in Belarus.
Moscow has denied preparing for a military offensive and said its troops are in the Ukrainian border and Belarus for regular exercises.