Stoltenberg says NATO does not want to isolate Russia / Photo from UNIAN

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says that Ukraine has the sovereign right to choose its own path as a sovereign nation.

"We have stepped up support for our close partners, Georgia and Ukraine, sovereign nations with the sovereign right to choose their own path," Stoltenberg said in his U.S. Congress address on April 3.

"In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea.The first time in Europe that one country had taken part of another by force since World War Two," he said.

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"We see a pattern of Russian behaviour. Including a massive military build-up from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and from the Black Sea to the Baltic. The use of a military-grade nerve agent in the United Kingdom. Support for Assad’s murderous regime in Syria.Consistent cyber-attacks on NATO Allies and partners, targeting everything from Parliaments to power grids. Sophisticated disinformation campaigns. And attempts to interfere in democracy itself," he said.

According to him, NATO has responded with the biggest reinforcement of its collective defence in decades.

"For the first time, we have combat-ready troops deployed in the east of our Alliance. We have increased the readiness of our forces. Tripled the size of the NATO Response Force. Modernized our command structure. Bolstered our cyber defences," he said.

"We do all of this not to provoke a conflict. But to prevent a conflict. And to preserve the peace. Not to fight, but to deter. Not to attack, but to defend. There is no contradiction between deterrence, defence and dialogue. We do not want to isolate Russia. We strive for a better relationship with Russia," he said.