Tag Archives: Anders Fogh Rasmussen

​Russia now enemy, so we’ll help Ukraine build up military – NATO chief

Ukrainian troops outside the town of Andreyevskoye near Slavyansk, Donetsk Region

NATO is preparing a package deal to ramp up the Ukrainian military because it ‘must adapt’ to Russia viewing it as an enemy, the outgoing chief of the military bloc said.

The deal would be submitted to foreign ministers of members states later this month, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told El Pais in an interview. He declined to go into detail, but said it provides for defense industry reform and modernization of the Ukrainian military.

The alliance may also facilitate cooperation with Ukraine over military training, although whatever exercises of NATO member troops would be held in Ukraine is up to individual countries, Rasmussen said.

“We must adapt to the fact that Russia now considers us its adversary,” he explained.

NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen

The help that NATO plans to give Ukrainian military comes as the said military are used in a bloody crackdown on the defiant eastern provinces, where local militias defend cities from daily artillery shelling and airstrikes.

Kiev regards the militias as Russia-backed terrorists and refuses any kind of negotiation with them. NATO shares the view, accusing Russia of funneling heavy weapons into Ukraine across the border, although so far no solid evidence of such actions was presented.

The alliance itself is experiencing a sort of revival playing the ‘Russian threat’ card to justify the build-up of troops in Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow sees such deployments as provocative and confirming NATO’s aggressive stance towards Russia.

NATO claims that it has been cooperating with Russia in every way until the Ukrainian crisis sparked the cold war hostilities again. It’s not quite true, considering the alliance’s expansion eastwards in Europe and its plans to deploy a system of anti-ballistic missile defense closer to Russian borders. Both have been done against Russia’s objections that such moves compromise Russian national security.

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Ukraine Crisis Will Be ‘Game Changer’ for NATO

The US Army’s 173rd Infantry Brigade carrying out a NATO-led exercise.

Artillery and tank fire reverberate around a Baltic airstrip where U.S. paratroopers are fighting alongside Lithuanian soldiers. The battle is just an exercise and it only involves 150 U.S. soldiers — but the symbolism is clear.

With Eastern European states nervous about Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and massed 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, the U.S. and NATO allies want to show Moscow that former Soviet republics on the Baltic are under the alliance’s security umbrella.

“We are ready if something were to happen, but we are not looking to start any problems,” said Sergeant James Day, from the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade, during war games on the vast Gaiziunai training ground in western Lithuania.

That chimes with NATO’s current posture. In an initial response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the U.S. has sent 600 soldiers to the three Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland to take part in exercises to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. But the alliance has no inclination to intervene militarily in Ukraine.

Longer term, the crisis will have a profound impact on NATO’s relations with Russia, its strategy and how it deploys, trains and equips its forces, although Europe has no wish to return to a Cold War-style confrontation between huge armies.

The crisis will compel the alliance to refocus on its core mission of defending its members after years in which its main effort has been far away in Afghanistan.

The 28-nation military alliance accuses Russia of tearing up the diplomatic rule book with its annexation of Crimea.

“For 20 years, the security of the Euro-Atlantic region has been based on the premise that we do not face an adversary to our east. This premise is now in doubt,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said last month.

The crisis, called a “game changer” by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, will dominate the alliance’s agenda as it prepares for a summit in Wales in September, which will mark the imminent end of the NATO-led combat mission in Afghanistan.

The U.S., Britain, Denmark, France, Canada and Germany have sent or promised extra fighter aircraft to increase patrols and training over the Baltics, Poland or Romania.

A fleet of nine minehunters from NATO countries has been dispatched to the Baltic and another task force of five ships to the eastern Mediterranean.

In the longer term, NATO will consider permanently stationing forces in Eastern Europe, something it has refrained from doing in the 15 years since the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined the alliance after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

NATO will also have to think about how it deals with the unorthodox tactics used by Russia in Crimea, including exploiting political divisions, using large-scale military exercises as cover for intervention, and denying Russian troops were operating in the peninsula.

The crisis has already affected relations between NATO and Russia, which have cooperated uneasily in recent years in areas such as combating terrorism, piracy and Afghan drug-trafficking. NATO suspended cooperation with Russia last month over Crimea.

The damage is not likely to be repaired as quickly as after Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia, when a freeze in top-level contacts between NATO and Russia lasted barely six months.

“As compared, say, with the reset after the Georgia war, this is going to be a much more prolonged and difficult period,” said a senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Vladimir Putin declared in March he had the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian speakers there, causing alarm in NATO members Estonia and Latvia, which have large ethnic Russian minorities of their own.

Officials at NATO are asking themselves if Putin would seriously consider challenging a NATO member, although if it tangled with a NATO member state, Russia would also be risking a confrontation with the U.S.

“Just as NATO does not want a war with Russia, so too Russia does not want a war with NATO, because the risks on both sides are global and catastrophic,” said Samuel Charap of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

So far, NATO has reinforced eastern allies with short-term deployments that will continue until at least the end of the year. If tensions with Russia persist, NATO may look at longer term ways to beef up its presence.

NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said last week that NATO would have to consider permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern Europe.

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CNN: NATO’s Rasmussen says separatist Ukraine referendums ‘don’t count,’ pledges ‘further steps’ if needed

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says May 11 referendums in estern Ukraine were illegal, “organized in a chaotic manner with dubious and ambiguous questions.”

Referendums by separatists in Ukraine, such as Sunday’s in Donyetsk, “don’t count,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“These referendums are illegal, they are organized in a chaotic manner with dubious and ambiguous questions.”

Pro-Russian separatists claimed victory in a vote in the eastern Ukrainian region; they say that 90% of voters wanted independence from Ukraine.

The acting Ukrainian president called the referendum a “propagandist farce.”

“The only thing that counts is the presidential election on the twenty-fifth of May. And I urge all actors to make sure that those general elections can be conducted in an orderly manner,” Rasmussen told Amanpour.

NATO has tried, through limited troop deployments, military exercises, and air flights to present an enhanced deterrent to Russia, its erstwhile Cold War foe.

Amanpour challenged Rasmussen on whether that was enough.

“The allies say they’d like to see a little bit more – if not reassurance, heft,” Amanpour said. “I don’t know what you think, but a hundred and fifty U.S. soldiers to Poland? I mean, is that really enough to tell Mister Putin – who’s got forty-thousand troops massed on the borders there – to step back?”

“We are right now in the process of considering further steps,” Rasmussen said. “Those further steps might include an update of existing defense plans, development of new defense plans, enhanced exercises, and also appropriate deployment.”

“However, it’s a bit too early to tell exactly how to do it and where to it, but we will not hesitate to take further steps if needed.”

Russia, he told Amanpour, “obviously” has a “strong influence on the separatists.”

“So no doubt that if Moscow took the decision to encourage separatists to lay down their weapons and let the presidential elections go forward in an orderly manner, that would also happen.”

Amanpour asked if Russia could move against the Ukrainian port of Odessa or the surrounding area in an effort to land-lock the country.

“Well at least they have the capacity to do so. They have massed armed forces along the Ukrainian borders – around 40,000 troops. And in addition to that 25,000 troops in Crimea.”

“We have seen that Russia is able to – or the Russian armed forces are able to act within a few hours if the political decision is taken. What I don’t know is whether the political decision has been taken or will be taken. But at least they have the capacity to do that.”

NATO has seen no evidence of Russian withdrawal from the Ukrainian border, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed, he told Amanpour.

Rasmussen also, of course, has much responsibility in Afghanistan, which just held the first round of presidential elections.

President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement, which he negotiated, to keep foreign security forces in the country past 2014. All of the major Afghan candidates, including the front-runner Abdullah Abdullah, have pledged to sign an agreement in interviews with Amanpour.

“We will establish a training mission to continue to train, advise, assist the Afghan security forces after 2014,” Rasmussen said. “I am confident that we will get a signature on the necessary security agreement.”

He praised the Afghan security forces’ performance securing the country for the presidential elections.

“We have seen them address that in a very professional manner.”

“Of course we are alert, but the fact is that the Afghan security forces took the lead in ensuring a secure environment for the conduct of presidential elections, and they will continue to be in the lead.”

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Russia wants answers on NATO troop movement in Eastern Europe

Russia expects detailed explanations from NATO regarding expanding its military presence in Eastern Europe, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The statement comes after NATO bloc announced boosting its military presence in the area.

“We have addressed questions to the North Atlantic military alliance. We are not only expecting answers, but answers that will be based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on,” Lavrov told reports at a joint briefing with Kazakhstan’s FM Yerlan Idrisov.

However, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had not received any questions from Moscow.

In response he called Russian accusations about NATO’s actions “propaganda and disinformation.”

He denied that NATO was violating the 1997 treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation by boosting its forces in Eastern Europe.

The accusations by Russia, he said, are based “on a wrong interpretation” of a fundamental act of the 1997 treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation, in which NATO vowed to provide collective defense by using reinforcements rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces at regular bases.

Lavrov’s statement came after the NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the bloc will deploy more troops to Eastern Europe. According to him, NATO is considering “revised operational plans, military maneuvers and adequate troop reinforcements.” This military buildup was approved by many eastern European countries. On April 1, Polish PM Donald Tusk praised the NATO presence in the country.

After the announcement of deploying troops in Ukraine, NATO also said that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, a move that was immediately blasted by Moscow who said that neither Russia, not NATO would benefit from such a step. Russia called this move reminiscent of Cold War language.

Lavrov also called upon the world’s powers to abide by the rules of the Montreux Convention, which allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for only 21 day.

“US warships have recently extended their presence in the Black Sea several times,” he said, “This extension didn’t always obey the rules of the Montreux Convention.”

The statement comes after the USS Truxtun destroyer started a military exercises in March with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies a few hundred miles from Russian forces of the Black Sea Fleet.

Meanwhile, Lavrov also responded to Western criticism over the presence of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, saying that the EU and Kiev should not stir up a conflict surrounding Russian drills launched in the south of the country.

According to the Russian FM, Russia had the right to move forces on its territory, and furthermore the troops would return to their permanent bases after completing military exercises.

“There are no restrictions on Russia’s troop displacement on Russian territory,” he said.

In March, Russia’s Defense Ministry launched artillery drills in the southern military district, which involved some 8,500 troops and a large amount of hardware. It coincided with war games conducted by the country’s Airborne Troops.

Although Russia has repeatedly denied any troop build-up on the borders with Ukraine, as well as plans to send any troops into Ukraine, the West has been turning a deaf ear to the claims.

Lavrov also commented on the crisis situation in Ukraine, saying that all its regions should be taking part in the constitutional process.

“We are all convinced that constitutional reform should be proper, not “cosmetic,” it is necessary to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and overcome the crisis,” he added.

According to Lavrov, it is necessary to remind the Ukrainian authorities that constitutional reform was written in the February-21 agreement on the crisis settlement, which was signed by ousted president Yanukovich and opposition leaders, including Arseny Yatsenyuk and Vladimir Klitschko, on ending the political crisis in the country. The agreement was witnessed by EU foreign ministers from Germany and Poland.

via Russia wants answers on NATO troop movement in Eastern Europe — RT News.

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NATO suspends civilian and military cooperation with Russia

April 1, 2014 shows a view of the Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

April 1, 2014 shows a view of the Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

NATO has announced that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, the bloc said in a joint statement.

“We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Our political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow us to exchange views, first and foremost on this crisis,” the statement reads. The alliance plans to review its relations with Russia at a meeting in June.

The decision could affect cooperation on Afghanistan in areas such as training counter-narcotics personnel, maintenance of Afghan air force helicopters, and a transit route out of the war-torn country. Other projects around fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and dealing with the disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could also be impacted.

Despite the harsh public statement, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen backtracked when speaking to reporters after the ministerial meeting on Tuesday, apparently muddying the message the alliance wants to send. Rasmussen said that NATO expects Russia to continue working with the alliance on the important issues.

“I would expect the counter-narcotics projects to continue, I would also expect the Afghanistan-related cooperation projects to continue, the transit arrangements, as well as helicopter projects also because we have a joint interest in ensuring success on our mission in Afghanistan,” Rasmussen said.

NATO foreign ministers also urged Moscow in “to take immediate steps … to return to compliance with international law.”

The bloc said that it was stepping up its cooperation with Ukraine, promoting defense reforms and increasing the activity of a liaison office in Kiev.

The goal will be to modernize Ukraine’s armed forces, including through Ukraine’s involvement in more of NATO’s military exercises, according to Rasmussen. As of now, the efforts to modernize will come short of sending weapons to Ukraine.

Ukraine provided NATO members with a list of “technical equipment” it required for the nation’s armed forces, which did not include weaponry, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchitsya told a news conference after meeting with NATO ministers.

NATO and Ukraine issued a joint statement after a meeting of their ministers in Brussels. They said that they would “implement immediate and longer term measures to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security.”

A series of meetings in Brussels was called on Tuesday in response to what the bloc sees as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. The bloc called on Moscow to reduce its troop number in Crimea to pre-crisis levels, withdraw them to their bases and taper military activities along its border with Ukraine.

Ministers ordered military planners to “develop as a matter of urgency a series of additional measures to reinforce NATO’s collective defenses”, a NATO official told Reuters. This might include sending troops and equipment to NATO allies in Eastern Europe, holding more exercises, taking steps to ensure NATO’s rapid reaction force could deploy more quickly, and a review of NATO’s military plans.

Military planners will come back with detailed proposals within weeks, the alliance official said.

The Republic of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine following the March-16 referendum, in which 96.77 percent of the voters chose to rejoin Russia. Despite calls to boycott the vote and provocation attempts, 83.1 percent of Crimeans took part in the poll.

Crimea became part of Russia in 1783, but was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev – a move that ex-Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mikhail Gorbachev, has called a “mistake.” Following the fall of the USSR in 1991, Crimeans were forbidden to hold a referendum on independence from Ukraine, and a procedure for making such a referendum possible has never been clearly defined in Ukrainian law.

Many people in the predominantly Russian-speaking region also rejected the coup-appointed Kiev authorities, and some feared that nationalist radicals aligned with the opposition might launch a persecution of Russians living in Crimea.

However, a closer look shows that the neo-Nazi scare was not the only thing that concerned Crimeans about the coup-appointed authorities. One of the first moves of the post-coup Ukrainian parliament was an attempt to strip the status of regional minority languages, including Russian. The political program of the nationalist Svoboda party, which currently occupies four seats in the cabinet of ministers in Kiev, also clearly stated that it seeks to deprive the region of its autonomy and to make it an oblast (administrative division) instead of an Autonomous Republic. According to a common belief among the Russians living in Crimea, some of the Tatars, members of the Mejlis organization, also counted on the ex-opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party to support them in declaring the region a Tatar national autonomy, despite Russians and Ukrainians making up over 70 percent of the population and Tatars accounting for only about 12 percent of it.

Crimeans have also been consistently against Ukraine becoming a NATO state, and have staged protests against Ukrainian-NATO drills in the past. Polls showed that more than half the people living in Crimea considered NATO a “threat.”

Despite Ukraine’s non-aligned status enshrined in its Constitution, the coup-appointed authorities said they are considering changing the relevant part of the supreme law, just as NATO’s chief stated they were “intensifying” their cooperation with Ukraine.

Responding to such remarks, the Russian government reminded that pushing for NATO integration in Ukraine during Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency had in the past led only to a “widening of the split in Ukrainian society, the majority of which anything but supports the idea of Ukraine entering the NATO military block.”

 

Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it’s in turmoil

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‘Obama pushing world into war’ | The Herald

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NEW YORK. – US Presidesnt Barack Obama’s hegemonic policies regarding Russia are pushing the world into a new war, an analyst wrote in a column for the Press TV website. “Obama overthrew the Ukrainian government in order to be able to stuff the country into NATO, throw Russia out of its Black Sea naval base, and put US missile bases in Ukraine on Russia’s border,” Dr Paul Craig Roberts wrote in a column for Press TV on Saturday.

“Obama is angry that his plan didn’t pan out as intended, and he is taking his anger and frustration out on Russia,” he added.

The analyst pointed that Obama’s demand for more NATO troops to be stationed in Eastern Europe and the build-up of military forces on Russia’s borders to allegedly protect Poland and the Baltic states is yet another provocation by Washington that could trigger a war with Moscow.

“Obama doesn’t say what effect the US/NATO military build-up and numerous war games on Russia’s border will have on Russia.

“Will the Russian government conclude that Russia is about to be attacked and strike first? The reckless carelessness of Obama is the way wars start,” he said.

“Today the drive to war is blatantly obvious.

“The lies are obvious, and the entire West is participating, both media and governments,” he added.

“World War 1 (and World War 2) was the result of the ambitions and mistakes of a very small number of people,” the analyst recalled.

Meanwhile, NATO has accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the comment yesterday in an article for Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“And they flout the principle that every state is sovereign, and free to choose its own fate,” he wrote in reference to Moscow.

Non-NATO member Ukraine’s policy on joining the alliance has changed over the past decade, but co-operation between the two has “grown steadily stronger as a result,” Rasmussen also said.

Tensions between the Western powers and Moscow heightened after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of voters in Crimea said yes to reunion with Russia.

On March 21, President Putin signed into law documents that officially made the Black Sea peninsula part of the Russian territory despite condemnation from the West and the new Ukrainian government.

The move sparked angry reactions from the United States and the European Union, both imposing punitive measures against a number of Russian officials and authorities in Crimea.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the country has absolutely no intention of crossing into Ukraine. – Press TV

via ‘Obama pushing world into war’ | The Herald.

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​NATO to promote ties with Ukraine, boost military presence in Eastern Europe

NATO will strengthen relations with Ukraine and send more troops to Eastern Europe, the bloc’s outgoing chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said. The Ukrainian coup-imposed foreign minister is to fly to Brussels to take part in Ukraine-NATO talks.

Days after seconding US President Barack Obama’s statements on “ensuring a regular NATO presence” in “vulnerable” countries, NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen spoke to the German media detailing the alliance’s plans in Eastern Europe.

Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, Rasmussen said that NATO’s expansion in the region has been “one of the greatest success stories of our time.” However, the alliance’s “task is not yet complete,” the NATO chief added.

NATO’s partnership with Ukraine has been getting “ever stronger,” Rasmussen noted, accusing Russia of violating the country’s right to “freely determine its own destiny,” as well as its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia have already sought NATO membership and are already working on reforms to achieve it, he said.

“We are now considering revised operational plans, military manoeuvres and adequate troop reinforcements. We will, for example, relocate more aircrafts to the Baltic States,” Rasmussen told Focus magazine.

While this does not apply to Ukraine, which, according to the NATO chief, does not see membership a priority “in the foreseeable future,” NATO will help to “reform” Ukraine’s armed forces.

At the same time, NATO seeks “diplomatic solution to the crisis” in Ukraine, Rasmussen said, and will “keep the channels of communication with Moscow open.” This comes days after the alliance’s chief tweeted that NATO is to “review viability” of its relationship with Russia.

The Ukrainian coup-imposed government is set to discuss cooperation with NATO as early as next week, according to Kiev-picked acting foreign minister Andrey Deshchytsa.

Deshchytsa told journalists on Saturday he will take part in the extraordinary session of Ukraine-NATO Commission in Brussels on April 1-2, will “hold meetings and consultations” with US and UK foreign ministers, as well as attend the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 2-3.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been holding an unexpected meeting on Ukraine in Paris. Kerry abruptly changed his travel route and decided to meet his Russian counterpart on Saturday after speaking with Lavrov over the phone. The latest round of Russian-US diplomacy over Ukraine started with President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama discussing the situation in the Eastern European country by phone on Friday.

 RT News.

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​US in tenuous sabre rattling over Ukraine

Under the pretext of “deterring Russian aggression” in Ukraine, the US Defense Department has announced plans to add several fighter jets to US aircraft squadrons based near Russian borders, in a move to embolden the Baltic states and Poland.

Following NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announcement that alliance officials would put “the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation under review,” Pentagon head, Chuck Hagel, outlined plans on Wednesday to broaden military cooperation with Poland and the Baltic states, without elaborating on the details.

An unnamed source told Reuters that the Pentagon plans to send six additional F-15 fighter jets, and a Boeing KC-135 refueling Stratotanker, to beef up the squadron of four F-15 currently flying air patrols over the Baltic states. NATO has been carrying out patrols in the Baltic states for the last 10 years.

In Poland the US Air Force has a training squadron of F-16 fighters and Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport planes, and the same source said that more aircrafts might be added there.

Washington is accusing Moscow of deploying troops to the Ukrainian region of Crimea and has already called off all planned exercises and training with the Russian military in protest.

It should be noted that according to a Russian-Ukrainian treaty signed in 2010, Moscow has an agreed and constant military presence in the Crimean peninsula. Russia pays Ukraine $97.75 million annually for use of the naval base in Sevastopol. The treaty underpins Russia’s right to bolster personnel in the Crimea to up to 25,000 troops.

Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine would take place only as a “last resort.”

“If we see this lawlessness starting in eastern regions, if the people ask us for help – in addition to a plea from a legitimate president, which we already have – then we reserve the right to use all the means we possess to protect those citizens. And we consider it quite legitimate,” he said.

Last week Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to use Russian military forces in Ukraine if civil rights of the Russian minority in the country are violated.

Western capitals remain skeptical of Moscow’s policy and continue to blame Russia of “military intervention” in Ukraine.

“This morning the Defense Department is pursuing measures to support our allies,” Hagel told American lawmakers, specifying that this will include expansion of aviation training in Poland and deployment of additional US aircraft for patrol missions in the skies above Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

It is “time for all of us to stand with Ukrainian people in support of their territorial integrity,” Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The general dismissed Moscow’s assertion that Russian troops are not deployed in the Crimea peninsula in Ukraine and called to “deter further Russian aggression.”

Hagel also said that the head of the US European Command, General Philip Breedlove, also planned to hold consultations with central and eastern European defense chiefs.

‘Deterring Russian aggression’

After Crimea’s self-defense forces took control of the peninsula, Poland requested a NATO emergency meeting under the pretext of ‘Article 4’, which empowers any NATO member to request consultations if it believes its security, independence or territorial integrity are under threat.

“Regardless of the limited trust the world and Poland have to words spoken in Moscow, it must be said that we treat some of President Putin’s remarks as proof that pressure … to stop a brutal intervention, a paramilitary intervention in Crimea is working,” the Polish prime minister said last Tuesday, urging Russia to “abandon its aggressive plans toward Ukraine.”

This statement was made after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Poland and Lithuania of inciting protests in the capital of Ukraine, and training the protesters who battled against police forces in Kiev.

Ukraine is not a NATO member country, yet the recent developments in Ukraine caused Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to make a statement that NATO plans to “intensify our partnership” and “strengthen our cooperation” with Ukraine in order to “support democratic reforms.”

Russia’s NATO envoy, Aleksandr Grushko, told reporters “that NATO still has a double standard policy” and that “Cold War stereotypes are still applied towards Russia.”

“Ukraine cannot join NATO because the West realizes what Kiev’s NATO membership would mean for Russia,” noted Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily Nebenzya .

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‘Cold War stereotypes’ : Russia condemns NATO plan to strengthen cooperation with Ukraine

Russia has slammed NATO for applying “Cold War” stereotypes and double standards after the alliance announced it will review its relations with Russia while stepping up engagement with the Ukrainian military.

“This meeting proved that NATO still has a double standard policy. And Cold War stereotypes are still applied towards Russia,” Russia’s NATO envoy, Aleksandr Grushko, told reporters.

His comment comes as NATO and Russian officials met to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Following the meeting, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced that alliance officials would put “the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation under review.”

He stated that NATO has decided to “take a number of immediate steps” because “Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its own international commitments.”

“We have also decided that no staff-level civilian or military meetings with Russia will take place for now,” Rasmussen added.

Russia and NATO had been discussing a possible joint mission to protect a US ship that will destroy Syria‘s deadliest chemical weapons. However, that plan has been suspended as one of the “immediate steps.”

“We have suspended the planning for our first NATO-Russia joint mission. The maritime escort for the US ship Cape Ray, which will neutralize Syria’s chemical weapons. Let me stress, this will not affect the destruction of chemical weapons, but Russia will not be involved in the escort of the US vessel,” Rasmussen said.

Nevertheless, NATO is willing to “keep the door open for political dialogue. So we are ready to maintain meetings of ambassadors in the NATO-Russia Council, as we have done today,” Rasmussen said.

NATO has decided to “intensify our partnership” and “strengthen our cooperation” with Ukraine in order to “support democratic reforms.”

“We will step up our engagement with the Ukrainian civilian and military leadership. We will strengthen our efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military, including with more joint training and exercises. And we will do more to include Ukraine in our multinational projects to develop capabilities,” Rasmussen clarified.

The way NATO sees it, cooperation between the alliance and Ukraine will “complement the international efforts to support the people of Ukraine” while they are forming their future.

“Tomorrow, I will meet the prime minister of Ukraine to make clear NATO’s support,” he stressed.

The statement from NATO’s Secretary General comes on the same day that Ukrainian parliament reportedly registered a draft bill on Ukrainian accession to the alliance, submitted by the Batkyvshchina (Fatherland) Party.

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Putin ready to invade Ukraine; Kiev warns of war

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(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded and won his parliament’s approval on Saturday to invade Ukraine, where the new government warned of war, put its troops on high alert and appealed to NATO for help.

Putin’s open assertion of the right to send troops to a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe creates the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Troops with no insignia on their uniforms but clearly Russian – some in vehicles with Russian number plates – have already seized Crimea, an isolated peninsula in the Black Sea where Moscow has a large military presence in the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet. Kiev’s new authorities have been powerless to stop them.

Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava

The United States said Russia was in clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and called on Moscow to withdraw its forces back to bases in Crimea. It also urged the deployment of international monitors to Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, leading a government that took power after Moscow’s ally Viktor Yanukovich fled a week ago, said Russian military action “would be the beginning of war and the end of any relations between Ukraine and Russia”.

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov ordered troops to be placed on high combat alert. Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said he had met European and U.S. officials and sent a request to NATO to “examine all possibilities to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine”.

The United States will suspend participation in preparatory meetings for a summit of G8 countries in Sochi, Russia, and warned of “greater political and economic isolation”, the White House said in a statement after President Barack Obama and Putin held a 90-minute telephone call.

Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1

Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1

Obama told Putin that if Russia had concerns about ethnic Russians in Ukraine, it should address them peacefully, the White House said.

Putin’s move was a direct rebuff to Western leaders who had repeatedly urged Russia not to intervene, including Obama, who just a day earlier had held a televised address to warn Moscow of “costs” if it acted.

Putin told Obama that Russia reserved the right to protect its interests and those of Russian speakers in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

‘DANGEROUS SITUATION’

The Russian forces solidified their control of Crimea and unrest spread to other parts of Ukraine on Saturday. Pro-Russian demonstrators clashed, sometimes violently, with supporters of Ukraine’s new authorities and raised the Russian flag over government buildings in several cities.

“This is probably the most dangerous situation in Europe since the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968,” said a Western official on condition of anonymity. “Realistically, we have to assume the Crimea is in Russian hands. The challenge now is to deter Russia from taking over the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine.”

Putin asked parliament to approve force “in connection with the extraordinary situation in Ukraine, the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation, our compatriots” and to protect the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

The upper house swiftly delivered a unanimous “yes” vote, shown live on television.

Western capitals scrambled for a response.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called for the swift deployment of international monitors from the United Nations and the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Ukraine to help stem the escalating crisis there.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a phone call that Moscow’s military intervention risked creating further instability and an escalation “that would threaten European and international security”, the Pentagon said. A U.S. defense official said there had been no change in U.S. military posture or in the alert status of forces.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Moscow not to send troops. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said this would be “clearly against international law”. Czech President Milos Zeman likened the crisis to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

“Urgent need for de-escalation in Crimea,” tweeted NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “NATO allies continue to coordinate closely.”

NATO ambassadors will meet in Brussels on Sunday to discuss the situation, Rasmussen tweeted. “North Atlantic Council will meet tomorrow followed by NATO-Ukraine Commission,” he wrote.

Putin said his request for authorization to use force in Ukraine would last “until the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country”. His justification – the need to protect Russian citizens – was the same as he used to launch a 2008 invasion of Georgia, where Russian forces seized two breakaway regions and recognized them as independent.

In a statement posted online, the Kremlin said that in his phone call with Obama, Putin “underlined that there are real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens and compatriots on Ukrainian territory”.

FLAGS TORN DOWN

So far there has been no sign of Russian military action in Ukraine outside Crimea, the only part of the country with a Russian ethnic majority, which has often voiced separatist aims.

A potentially bigger risk would be conflict spreading to the rest of Ukraine, where the sides could not be easily kept apart.

As tension built on Saturday, demonstrations occasionally turned violent in eastern cities, where most people, though ethnically Ukrainian, are Russian speakers and many support Moscow and Yanukovich.

Demonstrators flew Russian flags on government buildings in the cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk.

In Kharkiv, scores of people were wounded in clashes when thousands of pro-Russian activists stormed the regional government headquarters and fought pitched battles with a smaller number of supporters of Ukraine’s new authorities.

Pro-Russian demonstrators wielded axe handles and chains against those defending the building with plastic shields.

In Donetsk, Yanukovich’s home region, lawmakers declared they were seeking a referendum on the region’s status.

“We do not recognize the authorities in Kiev, they are not legitimate,” protest leader Pavel Guberev thundered from a podium in Donetsk.

Thousands of followers, holding a giant Russian flag and chanting “Russia, Russia” marched to the government headquarters and replaced the Ukrainian flag with Russia’s.

Coal miner Gennady Pavlov said he backed Putin’s declaration of the right to intervene. “It is time to put an end to this lawlessness. Russians are our brothers. I support the forces.”

“WAR HAS ARRIVED”

On Kiev’s central Independence Square, where protesters camped out for months against Yanukovich, a World War Two film about Crimea was being shown on a giant screen, when Yuri Lutsenko, a former interior minister, interrupted it to announce Putin’s decree. “War has arrived,” Lutsenko said.

Hundreds of Ukrainians descended on the square chanting “Glory to the heroes. Death to the occupiers.”

Although there was little doubt that the troops without insignia that have already seized Crimea are Russian, the Kremlin has not yet openly confirmed it. It described Saturday’s authorization as a threat for future action rather than confirmation that its soldiers are already involved.

A Kremlin spokesman said Putin had not yet decided to use force, and still hoped to avoid further escalation.

In Crimea itself, the arrival of troops was cheered by the Russian majority. In the coastal town of Balaclava, where Russian-speaking troops in armored vehicles with black Russian number plates had encircled a small garrison of Ukrainian border guards, families posed for pictures with the soldiers. A wedding party honked its car horns.

“I want to live with Russia. I want to join Russia,” said Alla Batura, a petite 71-year-old pensioner who has lived in Sevastopol for 50 years. “They are good lads… They are protecting us, so we feel safe.”

But not everyone was reassured. Inna, 21, a clerk in a nearby shop who came out to stare at the armored personnel carriers, said: “I am in shock. I don’t understand what the hell this is… People say they came here to protect us. Who knows? … All of our (Ukrainian) military are probably out at sea by now.”

The rapid pace of events has rattled the new leaders of Ukraine, who took power in a nation on the verge of bankruptcy when Yanukovich fled Kiev last week after his police killed scores of anti-Russian protesters in Kiev. Ukraine’s crisis began in November when Yanukovich, at Moscow’s behest, abandoned a free trade pact with the EU for closer ties with Russia.

For many in Ukraine, the prospect of a military conflict chilled the blood.

“When a Slav fights another Slav, the result is devastating,” said Natalia Kuharchuk, a Kiev accountant.

“God save us.”

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