Secretary General sets out NATO’s position on Russia-Ukraine crisis
Welcome to NATO headquarters. It’s very good to see you here.
Now more than ever, it’s important that we listen to one another and talk to another. We have just had a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on the security situation in and around Ukraine. And we welcome the holding of this meeting.
All NATO Allies made clear that we condemn the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and Allies will not recognize it.
We commend the people of Ukraine for holding free and fair elections largely in line with international standards. They clearly voted for a united Ukraine. Their choice must be respected and we urge Russia to engage constructively with the newly elected President.
We call on Russia to withdraw its troops fully and verifiably from Ukraine’s border, with additional international inspections. To stop the flow of arms and fighters into Ukraine. To condemn armed separatists and use its influence for the freeing of OSCE monitors taken hostage.
So it was not an easy meeting, but it was a necessary one. We have long agreed that the NATO-Russia Council is an all-weather forum. And frankly, the climate at the moment is not good – not because NATO wants it that way, but because of Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine.
This meeting and the meeting of NATO defence ministers come just a few days after Ukraine’s successful presidential elections. Despite criminal violence, intimidation and provocation by pro-Russian armed gangs, the Ukrainian people have made their voice heard. And their choice must be respected. So we look forward to working with the new president of Ukraine.
We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We do not and will not recognize Russia’s armed annexation of Crimea. And we strongly support Ukraine’s right to choose its own path for the future.
This is a fundamental principle of international law and Euro-Atlantic security. Russia has subscribed to that principle.
For many years NATO has used every opportunity to improve and further develop our relations with Russia. We have consistently worked for cooperation, not confrontation. In fact, we have offered Russia a more privileged partnership than to anybody else around the world. We have made unprecedented pledges imposing restraint on our military posture, and we have kept them.
However, our partnership with Russia has been based on commitments - and Russia has not kept its pledges. Russia has threatened its neighbours, and used force against them. It has not respected the territorial integrity or political independence of other countries.
Let me be clear. All the measures that NATO is taking are defensive, moderate, proportionate, transparent, and fully compliant with our international commitments, including the Founding Act. They are not a threat to Russia - and NATO is not a threat to Russia. We want to improve the climate, but to do that Russia must show that it is prepared to play by the same rules as everybody else.