On Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg issued very direct statements regarding Russia’s relationship with NATO and its Western allies, saying, “Even if the fighting ends, we will not return to some kind of normal, friendly relationship with Russia. Trust has been destroyed.” Stoltenberg added, “I think the war has had long-lasting consequences for the relationship with Russia.”
Prior to his blunt remarks, Stoltenberg had drawn attention to NATO’s history with Russia and the efforts made on the part of the alliance to repair relations with Russia immediately after the Cold War.
While announcing the grim reality that Russia is no longer in good standing with NATO, Stoltenberg did offer a glimmer of hope that some of the lost “trust” between the organization and Russia could be salvaged, saying, “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.”
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Despite Stoltenberg’s stark comments, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz argued that relations with Russia could be repaired once the war in Ukraine was over. “At the moment, the relations we have are being reduced, reduced, reduced,” Scholz said adding that “a Russia that ends the war” should be allowed an opportunity to rebuild economic relations with NATO.
Although NATO has been hoping for a fairly quick resolution to the war in Ukraine, Russian president Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia’s “special military operation” will most likely be a “lengthy process” and that he has no intentions of abandoning his country’s objectives with the war.
When discussing Putin’s plan to continue with the war as long as necessary to meet his objectives, Stoltenberg warned on Friday, “If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong.” Stoltenberg added, “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 concluded, “We are working on that every day to avoid that.”
Despite growing concerns that the war in Ukraine could become a direct conflict between NATO and Russia, no negotiations are taking place to attempt to reach a ceasefire, although French and German leaders are both pushing for a diplomatic end to the war, rather than an escalation that will draw in NATO.