Following the crisis caused after the seizure of three Ukraine ships by Moscow, the Trump administration is pushing America’s NATO allies to show more “leadership” in confronting Russia in the meeting of the foreign ministers in Brussels on 4-5 December. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General, ahead of the ministerial meeting said, “Russia recently seized Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait. There is no justification for this use of force. We call for calm and restraint. Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships. It must also allow the freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.”
Stoltenberg further added that Ukrainian vessels, military as well as civilians, have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is in Brussels to show “unwavering” support for NATO. A senior State Department official traveling with Pompeo said, “we really want to see European allies do more,” emphasizing the administration’s need to be “in sync” with key European members of NATO.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity and said, “We are calling on European allies to show leadership in tackling a problem in Europe’s own backyard.” The administration has been clear about providing aid to Ukrainians that wasn’t provided by the previous administration.
“We want to see European allies take greater responsibility for a security problem that’s just a few hundred miles from Germany’s border and [we] will be right there with them every step of the way.”
Tensions rose when Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, accused Russia of military aggression, after Russian ships fired on Ukrainian vessels on November 25 in the Kerch Strait. Russia then captured three ships and held the crew members.
Kerch Strait is a narrow waterway that joins the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea and separates the Crimean Peninsula.
Kiev has urged NATO to send warships to the Azov Sea and asked its western allies to impose sanctions on Moscow. In return, Russia has accused Ukraine of causing a crisis with the Western countries.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, “This is an enormous threat and, together with our allies, we are searching for an appropriate response to it.”
US and European leaders have expressed concerns over the attack.
Heather Nauert, State Department spokesperson said that the US is pushing European allies to impose stern sanctions over Russia in the wake of the attack.
“That is one thing that we can look for European countries to do more when we talk about doing more,” Nauert said.
Nauert also suggested that the European leaders are being pressed to boycott Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is owned by the Russian government that passes through several nations and would increase European countries’ dependence on Russia for oil and gas.
“I think that’s a question European countries have to ask themselves: Is Nord Stream 2 something that they want to continue with, because it helps the Russian government? Is that the kind of support that they want to provide the Russian government with?” said Nauert.