NATO Chief Urges Russia to De-Escalate Ukraine Situation, Return to Diplomacy

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated his call Friday for Russia to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and return to diplomacy to solve its regional differences.

Stoltenberg made the comments in Paris where he held meetings with France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.

For several weeks now, Russia has massed troops and heavy equipment on its border with Ukraine. U.S. intelligence reports indicate Russia had plans to get more than 100,000 troops to the border in preparation for a possible invasion early next year. Russia denies the reports.

The buildup was the subject of a NATO ministerial meeting last week and a video call Tuesday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking in Paris, the NATO chief said he welcomed the dialogue between the two presidents, stressing the crisis requires a political and diplomatic solution.

Foreign Minister Le Drian again said that any attack on the integrity of Ukraine would have “massive strategic consequences” for Russia, meaning new economic sanctions.

Stoltenberg also commented on a speech given Thursday by French President Emmanuel Macron, ahead of France assuming the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union Council next year. Macron spoke of a strong “sovereign Europe” and called for strengthening of EU defense capabilities.

The NATO chief said he applauded new efforts to improve European defense, but he cautioned that what the region needed was better capabilities that can be used by both NATO and the EU, not “new structures which risk duplicating what we already have.”

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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