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NATO Defense Ministers Joint Statement on Ukraine

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, February 17, 2022
A cyberattack hit the websites of Ukraine's defense ministry and armed forces, and the websites of two Ukrainian banks on Tuesday, according to Ukrainian government agencies' statements. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the hacking incident. A separate cyberattack hit Ukrainian government websites last month. Ukrainian officials suggested Russian and Belarusian involvement, but investigators have not formally blamed those countries for the cyberattack.

The incident comes as Russia has massed an estimated 150,000 troops close to Ukraine's border, according to United States President Joe Biden, and as US officials warn that a fresh Russian invasion could come at any time. Russia has denied it is planning to invade Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia was sending some troops back to base after completing drills and that while he is open to further negotiations on the Ukraine crisis, Moscow's security demands were an ‘unconditional priority.’

Later that day Zelensky told BBC that when the withdrawal of the armed forces begins, everyone will see it, although so far these are just statements. “We do not see the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces yet.”

“To tell you the truth, we are reacting to the existing reality and we do not see the withdrawal of the armed forces yet. All normal people are waiting for de-escalation. As for the threats, I have repeatedly stated that we will respond calmly to any threat because we remember that it all did not start yesterday. It has been happening for several years now,” the Ukrainian president said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after a meeting with NATO defense ministers on the situation in Ukraine that’ the situation shows that we are facing a European security crisis’.

“Moscow has made it very clear that it is ready to oppose the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decades and to do so by force,” Stoltenberg said, adding that Russia's review of European security principles has become a new norm in Europe.

As a result, the defense ministers decided to work out options for retaining NATO and further strengthening defense. Among them is the deployment of new NATO combat groups in Central and Eastern Europe.

According to the Secretary General, NATO commanders have been instructed to figure out how to deploy new combat groups in south-eastern Europe. According to Jens Stoltenberg, no decision has been made yet, although there may be a combat group deployed in Romania, led by France.

NATO defense ministers have issued a joint statement according to which Russia is strongly urged to choose the path of diplomacy, to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine in accordance with international obligations.

“We are deeply concerned about Russia's very large-scale, unprovoked and baseless military formation around Ukraine and Belarus. We strongly urge Russia to choose the path of diplomacy, to immediately cease hostilities and to withdraw its forces from Ukraine in accordance with its international obligations. We remain committed to a two-pronged approach to Russia: strong restraint and defense combined with openness to dialogue.

Russia's actions pose a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. As a result, and to ensure the defense of all Allies, we will deploy additional ground forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, as well as additional naval and air resources, as the Allies have stated, and increase the readiness of our forces. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalating. We are ready to further strengthen our defensive and restraining position to respond to all contingencies.

Our commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is unshakable. We are united to protect each other. NATO remains committed to the fundamental principles of European security. Including the fact that each country has the right to choose its own security mechanisms.”