European Union (EU) and NATO leaders on Sunday pledged greater co-operation against “hybrid” threats during a visit to Lithuania focused on the Belarusian migrant crisis and Russia’s military presence near Ukraine. AFP.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has again urged Moscow to “de-escalate” into the Ukrainian border area and warned of the “costs and consequences” of recourse to force.
This visit to Lithuania by Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen takes place before a meeting on Tuesday in neighboring Latvia of the Foreign Ministers of NATO member states, which will be attended by the Secretary of State American Antony Blinken and who is to address concerns about the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border.
Jens Stoltenberg and Ursula von der Leyen have both accused Belarus of orchestrating the migration crisis in order to pose a hybrid threat to the European Union (EU), which Minsk denies.
Thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East, have crossed or tried to cross the Belarusian border in recent months to enter Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, EU and NATO member states.
“In response to such events, it is important for the European Union and NATO to work hand in hand,” Ursula von der Leyen said at a joint news conference with Jens Stoltenberg and Lithuanian leaders.
“We discussed how to intensify the joint work of NATO and the EU, through a Joint Declaration, because we are stronger when we work together,” Jens Stoltenberg said.
“If the security situation worsens further, we do not rule out the possibility of consultations under NATO Article 4,” warned Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, who is referring to the situation on his country’s border with Belarus.
Under the NATO Treaty, each Member State may request a meeting of this military organization for consultation when it considers that its security or independence is threatened.
Poland, in turn, threatened to invoke the article.
Jens Stoltenberg denounces an “unusual” consolidation of the presence of tanks, artillery, drones and thousands of soldiers prepared for battle and considers it “very worrying for many reasons”, but especially “because it is unprovoked and unexplained”.
“The message to Russia is that it must de-escalate, reduce tensions and be transparent,” the NATO secretary general said.
“If (Russia) decides to use force, there will, of course, be consequences,” he threatened.