NATO-Russia talks must tackle Ukraine ‘withdrawal’: Poland
WARSAW – Agence France-PressePlanned NATO talks with Moscow should be focused solely on Russia’s “withdrawal” from Ukrainian soil, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said July 5.
The minister was reacting to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s announcement July 4 that the transatlantic alliance is set to hold formal talks with Russia shortly after a summit in Warsaw this week.
“Russia is an occupying power, every day innocent people, civilians are killed by Russia soldiers who are the aggressors,” Macierewicz said on Polish public television.
“We are not going to discuss defense plans with Russia. With Russia we can only discuss when and how they are going to withdraw from the occupied territories,” in Ukraine, he added.
Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea stung NATO out of its post-Cold War complacency and into a major revamp to boost its readiness and resources to meet a host of new security challenges.
On June 29, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Moscow had agreed to a Russia-NATO council after the Warsaw summit, on grounds that Russia will be able to examine the decisions that are taken at the summit.
NATO leaders meeting in the Polish capital on July 8-9 will rubber-stamp the 28-nation alliance’s biggest military build-up since the Cold War in response to the newly resurgent Russia.
Stoltenberg said July 4 that “we are working with Russia to hold another meeting of the [NATO-Russia] council shortly after the summit,” he added.
In April the NATO-Russia Council held its first meeting since June 2014 when relations were effectively frozen, and the talks ended in “profound disagreements” over Ukraine and other issues.
Russia has reacted angrily to NATO’s plans for a military build-up, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the alliance is provoking an arms race “frenzy” in Europe and that Moscow would respond.
Russia bitterly opposes NATO’s expansion into its Soviet-era satellites and has said it will create three new divisions in its own southwest region to meet what it has described as a dangerous military build-up along its borders.
Macierewicz said Poland would continue to press its case because Ukraine “is our nearest neighbor to this aggressive empire.”
During the summit, NATO members are also expected to confirm their support for the Kabul government, aware that they have little alternative if the country is to hold together.
Foreign ministers agreed in May to extend assistance past 2016 and at the summit in the Polish capital, alliance partners are also expected to continue their non-combat training and assistance mission.