Nato and Merkel snub Ukraine pleas
European leaders and Nato have reacted with scepticism to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requests for new measures to strengthen his defences and sanction Russia for the capture of Ukrainian ships and crew off Crimea.
Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said the alliance already had a strong presence in the Black Sea but it had no plans to send vessels into the Sea of Azov, as requested by Poroshenko.
She said Nato ships had been in the region for 120 days this year, compared with 80 days in 2017.
Nato members on the Black Sea – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – had staged separate military deployments, she added.
“There is already a lot of Nato in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Lungescu told the media.
Poroshenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to annex his entire country as he called for Nato deployments.
“Don’t believe Putin’s lies,” Poroshenko told Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling paper.
“Putin wants the old Russian empire back. Crimea, Donbass, the whole country. As Russian tsar, as he sees himself, his empire cannot function without Ukraine. He sees us as his colony.”
Putin has accused Poroshenko of manufacturing the crisis to boost his popularity ahead of next year’s presidential election in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed Poroshenko’s call for increasing military pressure on Russia. “We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” Merkel said.
The chancellor said she would urge Putin at the G20 this weekend to release the 24 Ukrainian sailors detained last weekend, and demand Russia keep the Kerch Strait between the Black and Azov seas open to commercial shipping.
“We will take care of it. Nevertheless, we ask Ukraine as well to be sensible. We know that we can only solve things by being reasonable and holding dialogue,” she added.
“We do not impose sanctions for the sake of sanctions, but we use sanctions to make it simply clear that countries must have the right to develop on their own, even when they are territorially close to Russia,” Merkel told the media before unsuccessfully trying to fly to Argentina for the G20.
Merkel also dismissed suggestions that she cancel the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to send Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing the Ukrainian pipeline.
The veteran leader said Germany would “ensure Ukraine remains an important transit country” for Russian gas.
A Kerch gas platform. The Kerch Strait has turned into a global flashpoint. Picture credit: Wikimedia