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Stoltenberg Says NATO Enlargement Was Not ‘Easy Decision’ Over Fears of Provoking Moscow

President Joe Biden, right, presents NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the 75th anniversary of NATO at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The enlargement of NATO and opening its doors to other countries were not an «obvious» choice and an «easy decision» because of fears of provoking Russia, among other concerns, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has told the NATO 75th Anniversary Celebratory Event in Washington. «The question was whether we were ready to open our door [to other countries]. Some feared that enlargement would delude and weaken NATO and provoke Moscow. Just as at previous crossroads, it was not an obvious choice, it was not an easy decision, and it took time,» Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. The NATO summit kicked off in Washington on Tuesday and will run through July 11. AnalysisSummit of Uncertainty: NATO Facing Crisis of Leadership, Nonpayments and Untenable ObligationsDespite prior pledges, NATO has progressively expanded eastward toward the Russian border, with Sweden and Finland becoming the bloc’s most recent member states, citing regional insecurity sparked by the Ukraine conflict. Moscow has for years objected to NATO’s continued expansion and military buildup near Russian borders. Ukraine’s plans to join the military bloc were among the reasons why Russia launched its special military operation in February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.During the summit, US President Joe Biden awarded Stoltenberg the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the US can give to a civilian.

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