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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

NATO chief recommits to defending Eastern European, Baltic nations...

BRUSSELS — A reinvigorated NATO flexed old Cold War muscles Tuesday as the Atlantic alliance’s chief recommitted to defending Eastern European and Baltic nations rattled by Russia’s military moves and its annexation of Crimea.

At the opening of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance has not seen signs of Russian troop withdrawals along the Ukraine border, as Moscow has claimed. A senior U.S. State Department official had called Russia’s promised pullback a “gesture,” but a welcome one.


NATO foreign ministers agreed Tuesday to intensify the alliance partnership with Ukraine and to provide additional assets for Eastern European partners.

“Over the past 20 years, NATO has consistently worked for closer cooperation and trust with Russia,” the ministers said in a statement. “However, Russia has violated international law” and its agreements with NATO, the statement said. “It has gravely breached the trust upon which our cooperation must be based.”

NATO does not rule out posting troops in nations at Russia’s front door, Rasmussen said, something the alliance has largely refrained from doing so as not to antagonize Russia. NATO could establish permanent bases in front-line allied nations, alliance officials said this week.


“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine challenges our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace,” Rasmussen said. “We are now considering all options to enhance our collective defense, including an update and further development of defense plans, enhanced exercises and also appropriate deployment.”

  • The United States has joined Black Sea naval exercises while NATO members have increased air patrols over the Baltic states and sent AWACS surveillance planes aloft over Poland and Romania.
Rasmussen’s comments came as Eastern European leaders expressed unhappiness with the pace at which NATO has sought to bulk up its presence on the front lines with Russia. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the results have been “unsatisfactory.”
“We are gaining something step by step, but the pace of NATO increasing its military presence for sure could be faster,” he said.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry was meeting Tuesday with NATO members and envoys from Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance but which cooperates with it, to Russia’s frequent dismay. In Washington, the House could act Tuesday on an aid package for Ukraine, whose new Western-oriented leaders have committed to economic and political reform and elections in May.
  • The 28-member alliance’s regular spring meeting of foreign ministers was energized by Russia’s move last month to invade and then annex Crimea from Ukraine, and to deploy as many as 40,000 troops along the Russia-Ukraine border.
“We will show our steadfast commitment to NATO’s collective defense,” Rasmussen said. “We will take the necessary steps to make it clear to the world that no threat against NATO allies will succeed.” He said the alliance also will look for ways to support Ukraine.
NATO, originally formed as a U.S.-backed bulwark against the Soviet Union, has expanded over the past 15 years to include many former Soviet satellite states, often over Russian complaints. NATO sometimes invites Russia to attend sessions, but not this time.
“We will make clear that Russia’s actions are unacceptable. We will take decisions on which cooperation with Russia is still appropriate,” Rasmussen said. “Russia has undermined the principles on which our partnership is built and has breached its own international commitments. So we cannot go on doing business as usual.”
  • “Clearly we have a NATO that is now in the business, in the context of events in and around Ukraine, of rebalancing its mission,” a senior U.S. official said.
NATO has focused for the past two decades on joint missions, such as in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Without the organizing principle of collective defense against the Soviet Union, however, the alliance has sometimes seemed adrift. The United States has complained that it is funding a disproportionate share of NATO missions while European nations cut defense budgets.
Those missions are still important, the U.S. official said, but after the Russian show of force, “the alliance is now very much focused once again on its core and founding mission, which is defense of allied territory.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe U.S. objectives ahead of the meetings.
Rasmussen said Tuesday that allied intelligence does not show that Russia is scaling back what he called a “massive military buildup.”.........http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/nato-sees-no-evidence-russia-pulling-back-troops-from-ukrainian-border/2014/04/01/eea9b6fe-b99f-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html?wprss=rss_homepage
1/4/14
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