South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday blamed NATO for provoking Russia into invading its neighbor Ukraine.
Speaking in parliament Thursday, Ramaphosa said the war, now entering its 4th week, could have been avoided if NATO hadn’t expanded eastward.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded 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.
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He was careful to clarify that South Africa “cannot condone the use of force and violation of international law.”
The South African president refused to condemn Russia, saying he had been approached to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine conflict but did not specify who approached him.
“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 there should be dialogue,” he said, adding: “Screaming and shouting is not going to bring an end to this conflict.”
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Ramaphosa said he did not want to take sides because it would hurt his country’s role as a possible mediator. He alluded to South Africa playing a similar role in a conflict between Northern Ireland and former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari. South Africa was one of 35 countries that abstained from voting on the UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia was joined in voting against the resolution by Belarus, which is providing staging for Russia’s military, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria. The United States and 140 other countries voted to adopt the resolution.
In just the past two months, the U.S. presence in Europe has jumped from about 80,000 troops to about 100,000, which is nearly as many as were there in 1997 when the United States and its NATO allies began an expansion of the alliance that Putin says threatens Russia and must be reversed.
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By comparison, in 1991, the year the Soviet Union dissolved, the United States had 305,000 troops in Europe, including 224,000 in Germany alone, according to Pentagon records. The number then dropped steadily, reaching 101,000 in 2005 and about 64,000 as recently as 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.