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NATO chief says Russia’s actions in Ukraine threaten Europe security

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issues a statement urging Russia to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine before meetings of the North Atlantic Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission, March 2, 2014.

STUTTGART, Germany — Russia’s intervention in Ukraine threatens European security, NATO’s civilian chief cautioned Sunday, but U.S. military officials said there were no immediate plans to take defensive action in response to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region on the Black Sea.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen convened an emergency meeting Sunday of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top decision-making body, in response to Russia’s military action in Ukraine, and “because of (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin’s threats against this sovereign nation.”

“What Russia is doing now in Ukraine violates the principles of the United Nations Charter. It threatens peace and security in Europe,” Rasmussen said in a brief statement before the meeting. “Russia must stop its military activities and its threats.”

The council was to discuss the implications of Russia’s actions”for European peace and security, and for NATO’s relationship with Russia,” Rasmussen said. “Ukraine is our neighbor, and Ukraine is a valued partner for NATO,” Rasmussen said. While NATO has a partnership agreement with Ukraine, it is only obligated to provide military aid to member nations.

NATO ministers also were expected to meet with Ukrainian officials on Sunday.

“We urge all parties to urgently continue all efforts to move away from this dangerous situation. In particular, I call on Russia to de-escalate tensions,” Rasmussen said.

Meanwhile, officials at U.S. European Command on Sunday said there are no immediate plans to alter its defense posture or deploy naval assets into the Black Sea as a show of force.

“We are closely watching events as they unfold in Ukraine and are in close contact with our leadership in D.C. The focus though remains on supporting Diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government,” said EUCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Greg Hicks in a written statement. “Additionally, contrary to any press reporting, no ships are headed to the Black Sea.”

EUCOM’s Navy units remain in the Mediterranean to “conduct routine operations and exercises with allies and partners and there has been no change to our military posture in Europe or the Med,” Hicks stated.

After weeks of political upheaval and violent protests in Kiev, a Ukrainian pro-democracy coalition last week ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian government. Over the weekend, Russia, deployed forces into Ukraine’s Crimea region, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based, sparking outrage in the West.

On Saturday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.

“Secretary Hagel expressed deep concern about Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine,” Kirby said in a DOD release. “He reminded Minister Shoygu that these activities ran counter to Russia’s international treaty obligations and stated position that it would respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“Hagel stressed that, without a change on the ground, Russia risks further instability in the region, isolation in the international community and an escalation that would threaten European and international security,” Kirby stated.

Though large scale security threats from the Cold War-era have largely faded in Europe, concerns haven’t evaporated over Russian intentions in the region. In 2008, Russia launched a brief war against the Republic of Georgia, like Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

In a call to Putin on Saturday, President Barack Obama stated that Russia should address concerns of treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine through non-military means, according to the White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement Saturday, said: “From day one, we’ve made clear that we recognize and respect Russia’s ties to Ukraine and its concerns about treatment of ethnic Russians.”

“But these concerns can and must be addressed in a way that does not violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by directly engaging the Government of Ukraine,” Kerry said. “Unless immediate and concrete steps are taken by Russia to deescalate tensions, the effect on U.S.-Russian relations and on Russia’s international standing will be profound.”

He called on Russia to withdraws its forces back to bases and “support international mediation to address any legitimate issues regarding the protection of minority rights or security.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com

 

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