NATO PA leadership reaffirms support to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s continuing military build-up

16 December 2021

Earlier today, the Bureau of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) met with the Head and Deputy Heads of the Ukrainian partner delegation to discuss the renewed reckless and unjustified military build-up in and around Ukraine, the second time this year that Russia has massed troops and materiel close to the borders of Ukraine.

“The April surge was already the largest massing of troops since its forcible and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014,” noted President Gerald E. Connolly (US). “Most of these forces never left. And now Moscow is at it again, concentrating a massive number of forces to threaten Ukraine.”

Participants agreed that a return to responsible behaviour, diplomacy and transparency by Russia is the only way to deescalate and reduce tensions and that the international community needed to continue to make diplomacy its priority and use all available diplomatic means. At the same time, it also had to clearly outline the severe consequences Russia would face in case of further aggression which would threaten Euro-Atlantic and global security, including by imposing unprecedented economic and financial sanctions.

“We do not know what Vladimir Putin’s plans are with his latest escalation,” President Connolly acknowledged. “But we should make sure to dispel any delusions he may have that he has somehow absorbed the costs of this invasion and is ready to take on the next one.” President Connolly recalled the illegal and forcible annexation and occupation of Crimea in 2014, which the Assembly will never recognise and which showed Russia’s utter disregard for international law and norms. 

“Now our army is stronger than ever before, and it is ready to fight back any aggression. Our morale is high, and the Russian Federation will meet strong resistance among the civilian population in the case of invasion,” said Yehor Cherniev, Head of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO PA. “However, for a more effective deterrence of the Kremlin, we would encourage our partners to develop, approve and make public the entire package of sanctions against Russia, which should be imposed automatically in the case of such invasion. Both Russia and the whole world should understand what price the Kremlin will inevitably pay for its aggression.”

Political and practical support to Ukraine must be strengthened, members argued, including through stepped-up delivery of defensive weapon systems to enable Ukraine to defend itself.

“The Assembly stands in full solidarity with Ukraine – on your independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and the Ukrainian people’s fundamental right to determine their own path,” President Connolly assured his colleagues from the Verkhovna Rada.

Russian disinformation and false narratives had to be countered vigorously, too. “The plain and simple truth is that Russia is the aggressor, not Ukraine or NATO,” stresses President Connolly. “Any concessions made at the expense of Ukraine or NATO’s defence posture are unacceptable.” 

Members also discussed the continued need for democratic consolidation and reform in Ukraine. “You can become the beacon that shines a bright light on the reign of repression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, offering a clear democratic alternative to your citizens living in these occupied territories,” said President Connolly.

To support NATO’s recommitment to shared democratic values, including in working with partners, the NATO PA has recommended to establish, within NATO Headquarters, a Centre for Democratic Resilience to serve as a resource of best practices, networking and cross-fertilisation on democratic benchmarks.

The NATO PA’s support for Ukraine is expressed across Assembly activities as well as in the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council, which embodies the Assembly’s special relationship with the Verkhovna Rada and its practical support for reform processes. The NATO PA has also established an informal support group for the Crimea Platform.