NATO Chief: Relations With Russia "Destroyed" Even If Fighting Ends
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has offered his bluntest and most dire assessment to date of the state of Russia-West relations, saying in Monday remarks that even if the war were to end quickly, relations are beyond repair. He described that as far as NATO is concerned, relations have at this point been "destroyed".
"Even if the fighting ends, we will not return to some kind of normal, friendly, relationship with Russia. Trust has been destroyed," he said. "I think the war has had long-lasting consequences for the relationship with Russia."
He had previewed this stark assessment by claiming that NATO sought to build positive relations with Russia immediately after the Cold War - despite that fact that the military alliance's expansion to Russia's doorstep began soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to admissions from US diplomats.
But he also said there remained the possibility that Moscow could salvage some degree of the prior "trust" that had been shattered by the invasion:
"They [Russia] can do as many other European countries have done since the end of the Second World War, they can choose peace, choose cooperation, choose to trust their neighbors instead of always being so aggressive and threatening neighbors as Russia has done again and again against Georgia, against Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.
Interestingly, on the same day as the NATO chief's remarks, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz weighed in on relations with Russia and suggested they were not totally destroyed or altogether severed.
He went so far as to suggest that economic relations could be restored after the war. "At the moment, the relations we have are being reduced, reduced, reduced," he said according to Reuters. He qualified that "a Russia that ends the war" ought to be allowed a chance to resume economic ties.
But just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his country that the "special military operation" could be a "lengthy process." He stressed that achieving all of Russia's objectives could be a long-haul which he intends to see through.
Addressing Moscow's stance, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had on Friday offered a bleak assessment, suggesting things could easily spiral out of control into a major direct confrontation among nuclear-armed powers. "If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong," he had told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. "It is a terrible war in Ukraine. It is also a war that can become a full-fledged war that spreads into a major war between NATO and Russia," he said. "We are working on that every day to avoid that."
The head of NATO expressed worry that the fighting in Ukraine could spin out of control and become a war between Russia and NATO, according to an interview released Friday. https://t.co/I9S9MouoB5— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) December 10, 2022
And yet it remains that there are no serious negotiations underway toward implementing a ceasefire, despite some European leaders like France's Emmanuel Macron or even Scholz appearing to favor more robust diplomacy and engagement with Moscow to end the crisis. And of course, some have felt the energy supply crisis harder and more immediately than others - pressure which will only grow into the winter.