“Russia’s use of chemical weapons would have massive consequences”

Just over a month after the start of the war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg discusses the risks of this conflict for the Atlantic Alliance and the response that his organization must provide.

President Volodymyr Zelensky recently indicated that Ukraine could give up NATO membership and could become neutral. Could this be part of the political solution to the conflict with Russia that you are calling for?

We respect all decisions of a sovereign and independent nation, whether it decides to apply for membership or not. It is up to Ukraine to decide, on its possible status of neutrality as well. I note, however, that the President’s remarks did not refer to a formal decision but to a declaration of intent.

More than 100,000 American soldiers are now prepositioned in Europe, many of them in Poland, where NATO troops now exceed 10,000. Is this not likely to be considered by Moscow as a breach of the Founding act of 1997, which frames the NATO-Russia face-to-face and in principle limits such deployments to 3,000 soldiers?

The Founding Act clearly states that the territorial integrity of all European countries must be respected, and Russia has consistently violated it. In 2008, by invading Georgia; in 2014, by annexing Crimea; and since then, every day, by destabilizing eastern Ukraine, and, recently, by invading it. We must send a clear message to Moscow and we do so to prevent the conflict from degenerating. There should be no misunderstanding that an attack on one of our allies would elicit an Alliance-wide response. By sending these troops, we provide a credible deterrent which is not intended to provoke conflict but to prevent it and ensure peace. That said, this presence of the United States is not totally new. It has gradually increased since 2014 in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia

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These troops were, however, more scattered before…

A large part was already present before this war. We were well prepared, with more exercises, more equipment, more defense spending, more air presence, especially in the Black Sea. Since 2014, we have also established four tactical groups in the Baltic countries and in Poland [ndrl. désormais au nombre de huit]. When the invasion happened, we activated our defense plans from day one and immediately sent in more troops. France has also participated in this historic adaptation, by sending soldiers to Romania and Estonia. France will have command of the troops deployed in Romania and will be designated “framework nation”.

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