Thursday

23rd Sep 2021

Nato warns of Russian military build-up, amid EU peace talks

  • The Nato statement stands in contrast to the EU's latest Russian diplomacy (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Nato has again warned of a “build-up” of “Russian forces” in and around Ukraine, one day after EU ministers shied away from Russia criticism.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg told press in Brussels on Tuesday (18 November): “We have confirmation … about a military build-up inside Ukraine, but we are also seeing a build-up on the Russian side of the border”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“We are speaking of troops, equipment, artillery, very modern air-defence systems. This is a serious military build-up”.

“We see that Russia is still destabilising Ukraine … and we call on Russia to pull back its forces from eastern Ukraine”, he added.

The former Norwegian PM spoke before his first-ever meeting with EU defence minsters.

His words stand in contrast to a softer statement by EU foreign ministers on Monday which spoke of “troops without insignia from across the Russian border” and of “foreign forces” inside Ukraine without blaming Moscow.

Polish foreign minister Grzegorz Schetyna said it was designed to “leave space for further talks” with Russia.

Regular EU-Russia summits and bilateral EU-Russia summits were put on hold by EU leaders earlier this year.

But German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in Moscow on Tuesday, while EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini is considering a similar trip.

Meanwhile, Ukraine itself has warned that Russia is preparing a new “full-scaled offensive” despite Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s talk of peace at international events.

It has also urged Nato to give it modern weapons.

Nato and EU states have ruled out arming Ukraine, with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who met Putin at a G20 summit on Saturday, saying: “It would lead to military confrontation with Russia”.

Nato is helping Ukraine to fund new military logistics, command and control capabilities, and cyber-defence capacities in what Stoltenberg called “full support”.

He “welcomed” Merkel’s diplomatic efforts, noting that “both the EU and Nato want a peaceful solution”.

But with some Nato states saying the EU should prepare new economic sanctions in case Ukraine's warning comes true, Stoltenberg added: “Russia has a choice … Russia can either be part of a peaceful, negotiated solution or Russia can continue on the path of isolation”.

The Dutch defence minister, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on Tuesday also said: “It is … up to the Russians to show they are serious about letting tranquility return to Ukraine”.

The defence ministers’ meeting is to check progress on last year's EU decision to “pool and share” procurement of high-end military technology and to develop joint EU capabilities, such as surveillance drones.

It will also take stock of EU military missions around the world.

The EU currently has five military operations - in Bosnia, the Central African Republic, the Horn of Africa, Mali, and Somalia - as well as 11 civilian initiatives.

On 1 December, some 50 EU experts will start helping Ukraine to rebuild its police force and gendarmerie.

Kalman Mizsei, the Hungarian diplomat running the mission, said on Monday it will grow to 100 EU staff and 70 local personnel in the coming months.

EU countries keen to rebuild Russia relations

Forty eight hours after Nato said Russia is pouring troops into Ukraine, EU ministers opted to blacklist some “separatists” while trying to restart talks with Moscow.

Merkel: Russia cannot veto EU expansion

Germany has warned that Russia might try to spread its “sphere of influence” to the Western Balkans, while seeking new ways to make peace on Ukraine.

Nato solidarity lacks public support

More than half of Germans, Italians, and French are opposed to honouring Nato's Article V in a conflict between Russia and a neighbouring Nato state.

News in Brief

  1. French ambassador to return to US after Macron-Biden call
  2. Borrell: EU needs armed force independent of US
  3. Polish region does U-turn on gay rights
  4. Johnson makes fun of French anger on submarine deal
  5. Ukraine vows 'tough response' after gun attack on top aide
  6. Poland again delays ruling on primacy of EU law
  7. EU to table emergency proposals on gas-price surge
  8. EU delays first set of anti-greenwashing rules

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. More French names linked to Russia election-monitoring
  2. Negotiations set for new, tougher, EU ethics body
  3. Lead energy MEP silent on gas meetings before vote
  4. WHO makes major cut in 'safe' air-pollution levels
  5. EU negotiators defend high Covid vaccines prices paid to pharma
  6. The EU's 'backyard' is not in the Indo-Pacific
  7. French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote
  8. Europeans think new 'Cold War' is here - but not for them

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us