WARSAW, Poland — NATO's new secretary general said Monday he is concerned about the "many violations" of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and that it is important for Russia to use its influence to make sure the pro-Russia separatists adhere to it.
Jens Stoltenberg spoke in Poland on his first foreign trip since starting the job last week, a visit meant to reassure an ally on the alliance's eastern flank, concerned for its security due to the conflict in Ukraine.
He put the blame for the cease-fire violations squarely on the pro-Russia rebels, saying he wanted "to commend the government in Ukraine for doing a lot, to both (respect) the cease-fire and also to contribute to a political solution."
"It is important that Russia use all its influence to make sure that the cease-fire is also respected by the separatists," Stoltenberg said in Warsaw after meetings with the president, prime minister and other officials. "The cease-fire is important. It is a reason for concern that we see so many violations of the cease-fire."
Stoltenberg also stressed that NATO is ready to protect and defend each of its allies, a message of reassurance meant to alleviate Poland's fears. Since the conflict in Ukraine began this year Polish leaders have repeatedly called for NATO to do more to protect their country.
Stoltenberg later met with allied airmen at a base in Lask, in central Poland, to stress the growing importance of their mission as they patrol East European skies in their F-16 fighters and AWACS surveillance plane.
During the visit, he told The Associated Press he believes that a political solution is needed in Ukraine, but that Russia's contribution to that is still to be seen and that conditions for a constructive relationship with Russia are "not in place now."