Foreign minister: NATO reiterates unacceptable nature of Russian demands

Eva-Maria Liimets.
Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Välisministeerium

NATO must hold firm in its common position and offer no compromise whatsoever on its commitment to the preservation of international order, while at the same time remain open to dialogue with the Russian Federation, foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said Friday. Liimets made her remarks ahead of next week's NATO-Ukraine Commission and NATO-Russia Council meetings.

Speaking after a video-linked meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Liimets said Friday that: "After today's meeting NATO member states are in notable agreement that there can be no compromise on the fundamental principles of the international order and there is no room for negotiations in the face of threat of external force when it comes to the foundations of security in Europe.

"We consider it unthinkable to return to the old politics of spheres of influence and think it is crucial that every state has the right to make independent decisions about the foundations of its security," Liimets continued, per a ministry press release.

Minister: Talks welcome but Russia does not get to dictate their terms

NATO and Russia should have dialogue, the foreign minister added, but those talks should not be held on Russia's terms. "We consider it important for NATO and Russia to have a dialogue and accordingly, we would like to see substantial indications the Russian Federation would like to improve security in Europe. This applies in particular to the actions it has taken so far to undermine it, such as the annexation of Crimea, military activity in eastern Ukraine, and eroding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia."

NATO has repeatedly stated that Russia's proposals for fundamental changes to the security architecture of Europe are unacceptable, while reaffirming its openness to dialogue, the Estonian foreign ministry says.

The last Russia Council was held in 2019, and Russia has not subsequently accepted any proposals for an exchange of views from NATO since then.

Liimets also told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Friday that NATO's line on strengthening its eastern flank, and not weakening it as Russia has demanded, were already formulated in principle late last year after a meeting of alliance defense ministers.

She said: "We also agreed on this issue at the NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting in Riga in early December, which called for NATO's defense and deterrence capabilities to be strengthened, including in the east. These agreements have already been reached and will be addressed in NATO. at the meeting of defense ministers."

The alliance remains committed to its support of Ukraine, not a NATO member state and whose borders have recently seen a concentration of Russian military forces, in significant numbers, and on the Russian side of the border, as well as the ongoing insurgency war in the east of the country which enters its ninth year this year.

"We can support Ukraine in many ways. In particular, of course, we are supporting politically Ukraine's territorial integrity. We are also supporting Ukraine on its pathway to reforms. Many allies are in favor of strengthening Ukraine's defense capabilities [too]," Liimets said.

Estonia recently pledged to provide Ukraine with anti-tank Javelin missile systems and artillery pieces, though this would require the approval of the countries of origin of the weaponry – NATO members the U.S. and Germany, and non-NATO member Finland.

Meanwhile, Latvia's foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said that the meeting had gone well and demonstrated effective, collective defense plus a willingness to engage in dialogue with the Russian Federation, without compromising any core principles.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated his country's support for Ukraine Friday, tweeting that he had called Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba that day and that the U.S. was working "hand-in-hand with Ukraine, NATO allies and partners, to deter further Russian aggression."

Stoltenberg: No two-tier system of NATO membership

NATO's Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said after Friday's meeting that there was no question of a two-speed system of alliance membership emerging, regardless of Russia's demands for that to happen in respect of member states, like Estonia, who share a border with Russia.

Stoltenberg said: "We are ready to engage with Russia on arms control, both conventional and nuclear, but this must be reciprocal,."

Russia's demands were: "Nothing more than imposing unilateral restrictions," the secretary general continued, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

"We cannot reach a situation where we have secondary NATO members, who cannot be defended by NATO as an alliance," he went on.

Friday's meeting came ahead of next week's planned NATO-Russia council and pursued the critical principle of al decisions being joint ones, so far as the alliance goes, Liimets said.

The NATO foreign ministers received briefings on the situation on the Ukraine-Russia border and the latter's military activity there, as well as from member states who have had diplomatic contacts with Russia in recent weeks, the Estonian foreign ministry says.

The NATO-Russia Council convenes on 12 January, two days after the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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