Holding NATO responsible for the war in Ukraine, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said he would resist calls to condemn Russia for invading its neighbour. Speaking in parliament, he said the war, which has entered its 4th week, could have been avoided if NATO hadn’t expanded eastward.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” Ramaphosa said, a view also maintained by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ramaphosa did, however, say South Africa “cannot condone the use of force and violation of international law” in Ukraine. While Russia has termed the war a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine, Kyiv and its Western allies believe Moscow launched the unprovoked war to subjugate a neighbour.
Ramaphosa also revealed that Putin had assured him personally that negotiations with Ukraine were making progress. The South African leader said he had not yet talked with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
South Africa asked to mediate in Russia-Ukraine conflict
On Friday, Ramaphosa’s office said South Africa had been asked to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and that he had told Putin to settle the dispute through negotiations. He did not say who had sought his intervention. Though, his recent comment blaming NATO cast doubt over whether he would be accepted by Ukraine or the West as a mediator.
“There are those who are insisting that we should take a very adversarial stance against Russia. The approach we are going to take (instead) is … insisting that there should be dialogue,” Ramaphosa added. “Screaming and shouting are not going to bring an end to this conflict.”
NATO stations millions of troops in Eastern Europe
Hundreds of thousands of troops, including 100,000 from the United States, are being mobilised for Eastern Europe in wake of the war in Ukraine. While at least ten of NATO’s most powerful allies, including the US, the UK, and France, have increased troop, ship, and warplane deployments on the alliance’s eastern flank and put more on standby.
In contrast to the rotational battle groups of roughly 5,000 troops that have been sent to the Baltic states and Poland in recent years, the ministers are anticipated to charge NATO military commanders with developing possibilities for stationing troops more permanently and in bigger numbers in the east.
Putin has stated NATO’s increasing military presence close to the borders of Ukraine as the main reason behind the invasion.