NATO Official: Putin’s Aggression Is a ‘Wake-Up Call’

The secretary-general says he is concerned about Russia trying to move beyond Crimea.

Berkut riot police hang a Ukrainian flag from a street light on Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine.
National Journal
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Jordain Carney
March 19, 2014, 4:25 p.m.

After years of in­volve­ment in the Middle East, Rus­sia’s in­cur­sion in­to Ukraine is for­cing NATO to turn its fo­cus back to Europe.

NATO Sec­ret­ary-Gen­er­al An­ders Fogh Rasmussen called Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea “the gravest threat to European se­cur­ity and sta­bil­ity since the end of the Cold War.”

E.U., U.S., and NATO of­fi­cials have uni­formly backed Ukraine’s in­ter­im gov­ern­ment in Kiev, while de­cry­ing Rus­sia’s in­cur­sion in­to Crimea, the ref­er­en­dum to leave the Ukraine, and the res­ult­ing an­nex­a­tion — which they con­sider il­le­git­im­ate.

In the wake of Putin’s ac­tion, Rasmussen said they have called off plan­ning for what would have been a NATO-Rus­sia mis­sion as part of the in­ter­na­tion­al ef­fort to help des­troy Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons. It has also sus­pen­ded all staff level meet­ings with Rus­sia.

And though some U.S. of­fi­cials are call­ing for in­creased pen­al­ties against Rus­sia, the NATO lead­er stressed that the situ­ation doesn’t have a quick fix, but said that “Europe and North Amer­ica must stand to­geth­er” and that he still hopes a dip­lo­mat­ic solu­tion can be found.

Des­pite that hope, Rasmussen said Crimea “is a wake up call,” adding that “we see what could be called 21st cen­tury re­vi­sion­ism, an at­tempt to turn back the clock, to draw new di­vid­ing lines on our map.”

And he ad­ded that the cur­rent ten­sions in the Ukraine are a re­mind­er that European se­cur­ity “can­not be taken for gran­ted” and sug­ges­ted that European coun­tries should pre­vent fur­ther cuts to their de­fense budgets and work to­geth­er mil­it­ar­ily.

“We had thought that such be­ha­vi­or had been con­fined to his­tory, but its back and its dan­ger­ous be­cause it vi­ol­ates in­ter­na­tion­al norms of ac­cep­ted be­ha­vi­or,” Rasmussen said, re­fer­ring to Rus­sia’s ac­tions.

And even though Putin has said that he has no in­terest in mov­ing his troops out­side of Crimea, Rasmussen called such a pos­sib­il­ity a “ma­jor con­cern” for NATO, adding that he be­lieves that Crimea is “an ele­ment in a great­er pat­tern, in a more long-term Rus­si­an”¦ strategy.”

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