Ukraine has warned of a possible Russian invasion of its country shortly before a NATO meeting. "In the worst case, Russia will try to redraw the borders in Europe by force, as it did in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in Kiev on Monday. He cited the figure of allegedly 115,000 troops on Russian territory on the common border. What is seen now, he said, is "very serious."
The foreign ministers of the 30 NATO countries are meeting this Tuesday for a two-day session in the Latvian capital of Riga. Chaired by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, they want to discuss, among other things, the situation on the EU's borders with Belarus and on the border between Ukraine and Russia. The meeting is also explosive because it is the first time that a meeting of NATO foreign ministers has been organized in Latvia, an alliance state that borders directly on Russia.
Stoltenberg had recently expressed alarm at the renewed buildup of Russian forces not far from Ukraine, speaking of "large and unusual" troop concentrations. On whether the military alliance expected Moscow to further destabilize Ukraine, he said Russia had already shown it had the will and capability to use military force in its annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and in its support for separatists in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass. No one should speculate too much, he said, but the expansion of military presence is a fact and unusual.
The government in Moscow, on the other hand, stresses that Russia poses no threat to anyone. Accusations that Russian troops might be preparing for a Ukraine invasion were described as misinformation.
The course taken by Russia's partner country Belarus is also seen as highly worrying in NATO. The leadership in Kiev is accused of deliberately bringing migrants into the country to then bring them to the border with countries such as Poland and Lithuania for onward travel to the EU. The assumption is that ruler Alexander Lukashenko is using this approach to avenge sanctions imposed by the EU for suppressing civil society and democratic opposition.
For weeks, thousands of migrants and refugees have been trying to cross from the ex-Soviet republic to neighboring EU countries. Because of the tense situation, Poland, Lithuania or Latvia had already considered requesting a special NATO meeting. Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty provides for consultations if a member believes that the integrity of its own territory, political independence or security is threatened.
Germany's caretaker Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) is expected to attend the consultations. The meeting is also the first since the end of the NATO military mission in Afghanistan and the takeover of power by the militant Islamist Taliban. The consultations are therefore also expected to focus on the state of play in coming to terms with the alliance's mission.
The goal of the nearly two-decade-long mission was to prevent the Taliban from taking power. Before that, the Taliban had been harboring international terrorism. The attacks that struck the United States on September 11, 2001, were prepared in Afghanistan.