Jan 7, 2022 - World

NATO rejects Russia's demand to halt future expansion

Photo of Vladimir Putin sitting at a table holding a pen and looking forward intently

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Konstantin Palace presidential residence in Strelna outside St. Petersburg on Dec. 29. Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/Ria Novosti/AFP via Getty Images

NATO on Friday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's demand that the military alliance halt admission of new members in a bid to prevent Ukraine from joining, AP reports.

Why it matters: With Russian troops amassed at the Ukrainian border, fear of another invasion has risen steadily in recent months. Friday's comments are a response to Putin's conditions for de-escalating the potentially devastating conflict.

  • Though the U.S. and other NATO allies have expanded their military presence and activities in the alliance's "eastern flank," the Ukrainian government has urgently lobbied for additional military assistance and preemptive sanctions from the U.S., Axios' Zachary Basu writes.
  • But because Ukraine is not a NATO member, the alliance's collective defense clause, which considers an attack on one ally an attack on them all, does not apply.

What they're saying: "We will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be a part of," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels after a virtual meeting of NATO foreign ministers, per AP.

  • "NATO never promised not to admit new members; it could not and would not," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in separate comments to reporters on Friday.
  • "They want to draw us into a debate about NATO rather than focus on the matter at hand, which is their aggression toward Ukraine. We won’t be diverted from that issue."
  • "We’re prepared to respond forcefully to further Russian aggression, but a diplomatic solution is still possible and preferable if Russia chooses," Blinken added.

What to watch: The issue will be part of the discussion during the NATO-Russia Council meeting next Wednesday — the first in over two years.

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