U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, said NATO allies are not seeking conflict with Russia, but they are ready for it if it comes.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Friday’s NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, Blinken added that the alliance “will defend every inch of NATO territory,” if it comes to that.
Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s overnight assault on civilians and Ukraine, particularly the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, near the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar.
He said the attack “demonstrates the recklessness of this war and the importance of ending it, and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops and engaging in good faith in diplomatic efforts."
Stoltenberg emphasized NATO is a defensive alliance and is not seeking conflict with Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly has called for NATO to establish no-fly zone around Ukraine since the invasion began, but NATO allies have resisted a step that would draw them into a direct war with Russia.
The secretary general noted Friday there should be “no misunderstanding about our commitment to defend and protect all allies.” He said they have increased the presence of NATO forces in eastern Europe “as a defensive presence.”
NATO’s chief added that U.S. and Canadian troops have joined their European allies in the region and are “stepping up with more presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, on land, at sea and in the air.”
The secretary general noted NATO foreign ministers are meeting to coordinate and consult the alliance’s response to Russian invasion of Ukraine and consider its long-term implications.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.