“NATO will discuss Russia’s security proposals but it will not let Moscow dictate the alliance’s military posture,” Christine Lambrecht, the German Defence Minister, said on Sunday during her visit to German troops based in Lithuania.
On Friday, Moscow set out a list of demands for the West that includes withdrawing NATO battalions from Poland,Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Russia is also demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will give up any military activity in Eastern Europe and Ukraine and an effective Russian veto on future NATO membership for Ukraine – which the West has already ruled out.
“We need to solve the current tensions on the diplomatic level but just as well by putting up a credible deterrence,” Ms Lambrecht told reporters.
The combat units, deployed three years after Moscow’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea in 2014, are meant to stall an assault and buy time for additional NATO troops to arrive at the frontline.
“We will discuss Russia’s proposals…But it cannot be that Russia dictates to NATO partners their posture, and that is something that we will make very clear in the talks [which are to take place next week at the NATO council],” the German Defence Minister stressed.
The West has threatened harsh economic sanctions on Russia should Moscow escalate its military build-up on Ukraine’s border. Moscow says it is only responding to threats to its security from Kyiv’s increasingly close relations with NATO.
Speaking alongside Ms Lambrecht on Sunday, Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas accused Russia of trying to drive a wedge into the alliance, and said NATO must not allow Moscow to divide Europe into spheres of influence.
“We need to support Ukraine with all means, which includes the delivery of lethal weapons,” he added, without giving details on what kind of weapons he meant.
Ms Lambrecht declined to comment on a report by Spiegel on Saturday that NATO’s top general Tod Wolters had suggested the alliance should establish a similar military presence as in Poland and the Baltic states in Bulgaria and Romania.