NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has dismissed comparisons between the Alliance’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the current situation in Ukraine.
“It is a misconception that the break-up of the former Yugoslavia began with NATO intervention. NATO intervened there to stop crimes in Kosovo. “At that time, Yugoslavia had already disintegrated,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying by reporters in Brussels.
NATO airstrikes on military targets began on March 24, 1999 and lasted for 78 days. This intervention ended the war in Kosovo.
Stoltenberg made these comments after a meeting that NATO member states held in Brussels with Russian officials, after the tense situation in Ukraine.
Moscow has sent about 100,000 troops to the border with Ukraine, which the West is seeing as preparing for a possible invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is seeking guarantees that NATO will stop expanding from the east as well as withdraw troops from eastern countries bordering Russia.
Speaking about these demands of Russia, Stoltenberg said that “NATO, according to Article 5, the principle that an attack on one-member state is an attack on all, will protect each member state.”
NATO reiterated that each sovereign state has the right to choose whether it wants to join the military alliance, while Moscow is insisting that Ukraine not join the alliance, calling it a “red line”.
Asked whether sending weapons to Ukraine would help reduce tensions, Stoltenberg blamed Russia for escalating the situation.
“Ukraine is a sovereign state and has the right to defend itself. Russia is one of the largest nuclear powers in Europe. It has already used military force against Ukraine and has occupied and annexed Ukrainian territory. Blaming Ukraine is a complete reversal of the truth. Russia is the one that even today threatens by gathering forces on the border with Ukraine. That is why it is important for Russia to reduce tensions. “Some NATO countries want to help Ukraine realize its right to self-defense,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO has described as “serious and direct” the talks held in Brussels with Russian officials, reports RFE/RL.