NATO foreign ministers gathered in the Latvian capital, Riga, on Tuesday at the start of a two-day meeting, with troubles to the alliance’s east on Russia’s border with Ukraine and in Belarus topping the agenda.
The 30-nation alliance remains uncertain of Moscow’s aims on Ukraine’s borders. Fears of a Russian incursion have grown amid accusations Moscow has deployed tens of thousands of troops and heavy weapons to its neighbor’s borders.
"Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He also stressed that Ukraine is not a NATO member and not covered by the alliance’s mutual defense pact.
"We need to be prepared for the worst and we need to convey a message to Russia that they should not conduct a military incursion into Ukraine," he said, adding that alliance members could impose sanctions.
Latvia’s defense minister, Artis Pabriks, told DW he "shares the concerns" of the US and other NATO allies over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Pabriks also expressed fears about other countries in the region as Russia continues to exert its authority over its neighbors. He said that Moscow "basically controls almost all activities within Belarus" as it seeks to strengthen its influence in the region.
"So that means that we can expect any type of challenge. And we know that Russian political elite is not afraid to use military force when it decides it is to today for purposes," he said.
He added that more should have been done to help Ukraine ward off the threat from Russia.
Pabriks said he would like to integrate Ukraine more, increasing its ties with the European Union, and "engage" with Kyiv over issues such as corruption.
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