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Russia Forces 'A New Normal' on Europe, Stoltenberg Says

Feb. 16, 2022 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Russia has imposed "a new normal" on Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the conclusion of alliance talks in Brussels, and the defense organization must respond. 

A man speaks while another listens while in front of a U.S. and NATO flags.
Addressing the Media
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg address the media prior the defense ministerial meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 16, 2022.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
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Alliance defense ministers — including Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III — discussed the security crisis that Russian President Vladimir Putin caused by sending 150,000 troops and equipment to the borders of Ukraine and into Belarus. 

Stoltenberg called the Russian actions, "The most serious security crisis in Europe in decades."

Stoltenberg said he welcomes all diplomatic efforts and said there were signs from Moscow that diplomacy could continue. "But so far, we do not see any sign of de-escalation on the ground," he said. "No withdrawals of troops or equipment. This may of course change. However, what we see today is that Russia maintains a massive invasion force ready to attack."

Russia has deployed high-end capabilities from Crimea to Belarus — almost encircling Ukraine. "This is the biggest concentration of forces in Europe since the Cold War," the secretary general said.  

A large group poses for a photo.
Family Photo
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III participates in the NATO "family photo" at defense ministerial meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 16, 2022.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
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The NATO allies and other countries around the world have told Russian leaders that the country will pay a high cost if it invades Ukraine — a sovereign country — again. “We have called out Russia's actions, plans and disinformation," Stoltenberg said. "At the same time, NATO remains prepared for dialogue. It is not too late for Russia to step back from the brink of conflict and choose the path of peace."

The alliance has sent concrete written proposals to Russia on transparency, risk reduction and arms control. "We have yet to receive a response," he said. "I reiterate my invitation to Russia to meet again in the NATO-Russia Council."

NATO — a league of democratic nations — will not compromise core principles including the right of each nation to choose its own path and the ability to protect and defend all allies,” the secretary general said. 

"We have already enhanced our deterrence and defense with more troops, planes and ships and higher readiness of the NATO Response Force," he said. "These steps are defensive. NATO is not a threat to Russia."

A man and women stand in front of a U.S. and German flags.
NATO Headquarters
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III meets with German Federal Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht at defense ministerial meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 16, 2022. Following this meeting Austin travels to Poland for meetings and then to Lithuania where he will talk with leaders of the Baltic states.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
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Russia's actions are threats to the rule-based organizations that have kept the peace since the end of World War II. "Moscow has made it clear that it is prepared to contest the fundamental principles that have underpinned our security for decades, and to do so by using force," he said. "I regret to say that this is the new normal in Europe."

This demands a response. 

The defense ministers decided to develop options to further strengthen NATO's deterrence and defense "including to consider establishing new NATO battlegroups in central and eastern, southeastern Europe," Stoltenberg said. "I welcomed the offer by France to lead such a battlegroup in Romania."

Military commanders will work on the details over the next few weeks, he said.  

People sit at a conference table in front of a U.S. and NATO flags.
Meeting Time
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Ambassador Julianne Smith, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III conduct meetings prior the defense ministerial meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 16, 2022.
Photo By: Chad J. McNeeley, DOD
VIRIN: 220216-D-TT977-0176

While Russian actions were one item on the agenda, the ministers also participated in the Nuclear Planning Group. "Ministers considered worrying developments across the globe including Russia's and China's modernization of their nuclear arsenals, and the continued risk of nuclear proliferation," the secretary general said. 

"Ministers also welcomed the progress made on burden-sharing with the seventh consecutive year of increased defense spending by European allies and Canada," he said. "This means $270 billion in additional spending on defense since 2014."

There will be a second day of meetings tomorrow.