NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday afternoon that Russia’s newly launched war on Ukraine constitutes “a grave moment for the security of Europe.”
Speaking after an extraordinary Article 4 meeting of the North Atlantic Council, Stoltenberg said the meeting was convened at the request of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, “to hold urgent consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty.”
He called Russia’s actions “a blatant violation of international law” and “a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”
Stoltenberg accused Russia of using force to try to “rewrite history” and deny Ukraine its “free and independent path.”
And in response, he said, NATO has decided to “activate our defense plans at the request of our top military commander, General Tod Wolters.”
Calling it a “prudent and defensive step to protect and shield Allied nations during this crisis,” Stoltenberg said activating the defense plans would enable NATO to “deploy capabilities and forces, including the NATO Response Force, to where they are needed.”
Over the past several weeks, Allies from North America and Europe have already deployed thousands’ more troops to the eastern part of NATO territory, he said, adding that even more were placed on standby.
“We have over 100 jets at high alert, protecting our airspace, and more than 120 Allied ships at sea, from the High North to the Mediterranean,” he said.
A virtual summit of NATO leaders was called for Friday “to address the way forward,” Stoltenberg added.
Ukraine Asks Turkey to Close Bosporus
The nation of Turkey, which straddles the European and Asian continents, was asked by Ukraine on Thursday to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to Russia ships, the Daily Sabah reported, quoting Ukraine’s Ambassador to Ankara, Vasyl Bodnar.
Speaking to reporters after talks at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Bodnar said his country expected solidarity from NATO member Turkey, and that it should not remain impartial after Russia launched its offensive.
“We are calling for the air space, Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be closed. We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side. Particularly, we demand the seizure of the shares of the Russian business world here,” the Ukraine Ambassador told journalists.
“We also call for support to the citizens of Ukraine currently in Turkey, especially those who need additional protection and security,” he added.
“We hope that all Turkish people will support Ukraine in this just cause,” Bodnar said.
According to the report, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has opposed sanctions on Russia, saying the country was in a difficult position because it has good ties with both Ukraine and Russia, and could not abandon either.
Speaking Wednesday after a summit, Erdogan called on the two nations to resume negotiations while urging NATO to “determine its stance” and “do whatever it will.”
“Our aim is that we take such a step that, God willing, we sort this out without abandoning either one,” he said.
The Turkish leader also told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in a conversation on Wednesday that his country did not recognize the steps taken by Russia against Ukraine’s territorial integrity – the formal recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, sovereign states.
He offered to broker a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine as well. The Turkish foreign ministry, meanwhile, advised Turkish citizens in Ukraine to stay at home or in a safe place, and to avoid traveling.
Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, NATO member Turkey has control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, which link both the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and has the power to regulate the transit of naval warships – and to close the straits to foreign warships during wartime, and when it is threatened.