U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Tuesday that NATO territory was inviolable and the alliance would defend every inch of it.
“Today Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe,” Kerry said in a speech in Washington.
“We have to make it absolutely clear to the Kremlin that NATO territory is inviolable we will defend every single inch of it,” said Kerry.
He said that Article V of the NATO treaty “must mean something,” referring to the NATO agreement that any attack on one member is an attack on all.
Kerry also called events in Ukraine, which has been a NATO partner in the past but not a member, a “wake-up call” for 28-state alliance.
He blamed Russia for the current turmoil in Ukraine and underscored the West’s backing of the authorities in Kyiv.
“Whatever path they [Russia] choose, I can guarantee this: the United States and our allies will stand together in support of Ukraine,” Kerry said.
He called on Moscow to "leave Ukraine in peace."
NATO has made clear it does not plan to get involved militarily in Ukraine, but announced plans last week to send more ships, planes and troops to eastern Europe to reassure members of the alliance, particularly the ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics, worried by Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region last month.
Kerry was speaking at an event on U.S.-Europe relations at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.