RIGA, Latvia (AFP) — NATO foreign ministers will meet on Tuesday to discuss how to counter a Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border amid fears the Kremlin could be preparing to invade.
The long-scheduled gathering in Latvia’s capital Riga comes at a volatile moment on NATO’s eastern flank as allies also grapple with a migrant crisis the West says is fuelled by Kremlin-backed Belarus.
Western countries spearheaded by the United States (US) worry that Moscow could be planning an incursion into Ukraine after accusing the Kremlin of massing forces close to the frontier.
“There is no clarity about the Russian intentions but there is an unusual concentration of forces for the second time this year,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told AFP during a visit to alliance forces in Latvia.
“We see heavy armor, drones, electronic warfare systems and tens of thousands of combat-ready troops.”
“We want to leave no question in people’s minds that there will be severe consequences, strategic consequences for Russia, if it pursues the kind of path that we fear it may be on,” a senior US official said.
“It’s a question of finding the right signals and the right deterrent posture that in fact leads to a de-escalation rather than an escalation.”
Moscow, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists fighting Kiev, has strongly denied it is plotting an attack and blames NATO for fueling tensions.