At NATO, Polish President calls for Allied response to reinforcement of Russian troops near Ukraine – POLITICO


Polish President Andrzej Duda called on NATO to deploy additional forces to its eastern flank and step up its air policing mission in response to Russia’s recent military build-up near the border with Ukraine.

The United States and other Western allies have issued stern warnings about Russian mobilization in recent days, fearing the Kremlin is preparing for a possible full-scale invasion.

“The caution and vigilance of NATO, which is responsible for the military security of the allies, is necessary,” Duda said Thursday at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a visit to the Alliance headquarters in Brussels.

“This should be demonstrated by the strengthening of the strategic surveillance of the region … by the strengthening of the air policing mission – and I mentioned this in my conversation with the Secretary General – also by the strengthening of the observation surveillance. and the strengthening of NATO units along the east coast. flank of the alliance, ”Duda said.

Duda and Stoltenberg discussed strengthening Russia as well as the border conflict between Poland and Belarus, in which dictator Alexander Lukashenko sought to arm migrants by encouraging them to travel to Minsk and then pushing them to enter illegally. Poland. Lukashenko used the tactic for the first time against Lithuania last summer.

Duda said Lukashenko’s hybrid attack on the EU should be seen as part of a set of destabilizing aggressions from Belarus and Russia, along with a recent spike in gas prices and a reduction in gas prices. supplies, as well as Russian military mobilization.

“They have to be coordinated,” Duda said. “It is difficult to assess it otherwise. ”

Regarding the situation in Ukraine, an EU official said that in addition to the more usual movements of troops, tanks and other weapons, Russian forces appear to be building field hospitals and other capabilities. support never seen in previous mobilizations, including a similar building. along the border last spring.

Stoltenberg did not specifically comment on Duda’s proposals for additional troop deployments or enhanced air policing, but said NATO foreign ministers would discuss Russian mobilization at a meeting in Riga, in Latvia next week. He called on Moscow to calm tensions and pledged further aid to Ukraine.

“We are seeing a large and unusual concentration of forces, combined with aggressive rhetoric and misinformation from Moscow,” Stoltenberg said. “We therefore call on Russia to be transparent, to reduce tensions and to defuse. NATO remains vigilant and we continue to provide Ukraine with political and practical support. This is not a threat to Russia and it helps Ukraine defend itself against aggression.

Earlier this month, France’s foreign and defense ministers warned Moscow against further attacks on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, following a meeting with their Russian counterparts in Paris.

On Thursday, Duda said NATO allies were much better prepared to deal with the Russian threat than they were before the invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The alliance now maintains a “enhanced forward presence” of troops in Poland and the three Baltic countries. from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

“NATO had to show that it was alive; NATO had to demonstrate that it was dynamic and that it was responding to the current situation, that it was able to provide an adequate response to the times and to the behavior of potential aggressors, ”said Duda. “NATO provided that kind of response.”

The Russian military mobilization comes as the EU prepares for an Eastern Partnership summit next month, its outreach program in the former Soviet territories of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia has long opposed the Eastern Partnership initiative. Moscow’s efforts to prevent Ukraine from moving forward with political and trade deals with the EU helped spark the 2013-14 Maidan Revolution that toppled an allied Kremlin government in Kiev.

Russia is also eager to get the required approval from German regulators to start operating the newly constructed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and some analysts believe the rise in gas prices reflects an effort by Russia to put pressure on it. Germany and the EU to give the necessary green light. before. At NATO, Duda bluntly reiterated Poland’s opposition to Nord Stream 2.

“We believe this pipeline should never have been built – it is against the interests of European countries,” Duda said.

“It’s dangerous for Europe,” he added. “Therefore, we believe the certification process should be stopped. ”

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