NATO members Romania and Bulgaria called Russia’s demand to remove both countries’ alliance troops “unacceptable”, with each arguing that the Kremlin has no right to interfere in the foreign policy decisions of other sovereign states.
The comments from both countries came just hours after the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that their demand for NATO to withdraw troops from parts of Eastern Europe included Bulgaria and Romania. Both countries are located on the Black Sea, which analysts believe Moscow sees as an important geostrategic buffer zone between itself and Europe.
Romania’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that “this demand is unacceptable and cannot be negotiated”. The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs encouraged Moscow to “show respect to Bulgaria’s conscious choice of foreign policies”. Bulgaria’s ambassador to the UK, Marin Raykov, told the BBC that the Kremlin’s demand was “an expression of contempt for Bulgaria’s sovereign rights to choose sources of guarantees for national security”.
Russia and NATO have been at loggerheads since late last year, when the Kremlin sent around 100,000 troops to its border with Ukraine. That military stance has sparked fears that Russia is planning another attack on Ukraine after illegally invading and annexing the Crimean peninsula in 2014. That same year, Moscow began supporting a pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine that left thousands of dead.
In its statement, Romania said that NATO’s military presence in Eastern Europe is “a strictly defensive reaction to the Russian Federation’s increasingly aggressive behavior that began in 2014, when the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was illegally occupied by Russia.”
“This behavior continues to intensify in the present, despite NATO’s attempts to engage in constructive dialogue,” the statement read.
The United States and its NATO allies have repeatedly warned Russia that any movement of its troops into Ukrainian territory would be met with what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “a stern and united response.”
Russia has been accused of trying to sow chaos in Ukraine through cyber attacks and allegedly plotting to take control of the government in Kiev, but the Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning to invade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has argued in recent weeks that his country is the injured party and is responding to NATO’s cooperation with Ukraine and the alliance’s expansion eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union – which Russia sees as a threat. to existential security.
Diplomats on all sides have tried to negotiate a peaceful deal, although one of Russia’s main demands – that NATO withdraw foreign military forces and equipment from alliance members who joined after 1997 – was quickly dismissed by Western diplomats.
“NATO allies are ready to engage in dialogue with Russia, but we will not compromise on fundamental principles,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month. “We will not compromise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nations of Europe, and we will not compromise the right of all countries to choose their own path, including the type of security agreement they wish to be a part of, and we will not compromise the right of allies to protect and defend each other.”
Armament sent to Ukraine
NATO members have, in recent days, sent military equipment and teams to members of the eastern alliance in response to the buildup of Russian troops in Ukraine.
The Dutch defense minister said the Netherlands would send two F-35 jets, along with a support team, to Bulgaria in April or May, while the Spanish defense minister offered to send fighter jets and a warship to the Black Sea.
The alliance also began sending weapons to Kiev to deter a potential Russian invasion and strengthen Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
UK light anti-tank weapons have already arrived in the country, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday, while the Czech Republic plans to donate 152mm artillery ammunition to Ukraine in the coming days, Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová said. on Friday.
Germany will provide a fully equipped field hospital to Ukraine, according to the German Defense Ministry. The country has traditionally avoided exporting weapons to crisis areas since World War II, but German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said earlier this week that “all measures” will be in place if there is more Russian aggression against Ukraine. .
The US Embassy in Kiev said on Friday that the first shipment of American-directed material – 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for front-line fighters – had arrived in Ukraine.
While US President Joe Biden has ruled out sending US combat troops to Ukraine, Washington has approved sending US-sourced weapons to Kiev – including highly sought after US anti-aircraft systems from Latvia and Lithuania. These armaments would help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aircraft, which some officials and experts believe would lead the way in the early stages of a Russian invasion. Estonia has received approval to transfer Javelin anti-tank guided missile systems, which the US has supplied to Ukraine in the past.
This content was originally created in English.
Reference: CNN Brasil