NATO May Station Troops at Russia’s ‘Front Door’ as it Sees No Signs of Russian Troops Withdrawing from Ukraine

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, left, listens to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a NATO-Ukraine foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, left, listens to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a NATO-Ukraine foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

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 the 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 frontline 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.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post

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