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WASHINGTON: The US and its European NATO allies are working to optimize the coalition’s currency in Eastern Europe to address current threats as Russia’s war in Ukraine intensifies, the organization’s US Permanent Representative, Ambassador Julian Smith said in Brussels on Tuesday.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will attend a NATO ministerial meeting in the Belgian capital on Wednesday, Smith said, during which participants will consider the organization’s response to incidents on its eastern borders and ways to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine.

They will “discuss other steps that, collectively, we can take to strengthen the eastern side of NATO and whether we need to formulate medium- or long-term plans,” she said.

Smith said NATO members began mobilizing their forces in Eastern Europe even before Russia launched an offensive last month, and the US has deployed several thousand troops to the region to help them in terms of military growth. To reassure the allies of its commitment to the rescue, and to serve as a deterrent to Moscow.

Russia described its invasion of Ukraine, launched on 24 February, as a “special military operation” in response to threats to national security from the Ukrainian government and a possible expansion of NATO in Ukraine, which is currently part of the organization. not a member.

The US and European countries have provided advanced weapons to the Ukrainian military to counter Russian military attacks. Smith said Washington has already provided $550 million in military aid and promised an additional $13.6 billion.

The US remains committed to protecting its NATO allies if they are threatened by Russian forces, he said, in keeping with Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which calls for “collective defense” for all 30 members of the alliance and the doctrine. defines the concept. That an attack on one is an attack on all.

However, Smith denied the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as stated by the Ukrainian government, saying that the US does not want the conflict to “extend above and beyond its current context.”

She said the current collective goal of the US and its allies is to end the war in Ukraine, get Russian forces out of the country and stop their attacks on Ukrainian military and civilians.

Smith also commented on Monday’s seven-hour meeting between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and prominent Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome.

She said Sullivan raised US concerns about China’s alignment with Russia and warned Beijing of diplomatic and economic consequences if it decides to aid Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine. He described the meeting as a “serious” and “very intense” discussion.

Smith said Washington’s engagement with Beijing was aimed at sending a clear message to China and other countries that they cannot remain neutral on the issue of aggression and must take the side of the US and its allies in resisting Russian aggression.

“The United States looks forward to seeing every country around the world, including China, clarify at this moment where they stand with respect to this conflict in Ukraine, and what they need to stand on the side of a rules-based order.” is,” she said.

“This is not the time for countries to stand on the edge. This is not the time for countries to pretend that they can remain neutral on this particular conflict. ,

After the invasion began, the US and its European allies imposed economic sanctions on Russia and its wealthy elite. The Chinese government has not joined international efforts to pressure Moscow, with Washington warning Beijing that it could face sanctions and diplomatic isolation.