U.S., British Defense Leaders Discuss Ukraine, NATO
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 U.S. and United Kingdom defense leaders today reiterated that there must be consequences for Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s forced annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond brief reporters during a joint news conference at the Pentagon, March 26, 2014. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hosted British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond at the Pentagon. The two discussed a range of subjects, but the main focus was Ukraine, Hagel said at a news conference with Hammond after their meeting.
“I thanked Secretary Hammond for the U.K.'s steadfast support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the U.K.’s important contributions to NATO,” Hagel said. “We reaffirmed the strong commitment of both our countries to NATO's collective defenses, as President Obama has emphasized throughout his trip to Europe.”
Economic and diplomatic sanctions that have been imposed against Russia by the European Union and the United States will further isolate Russia, Hagel noted. “As the leaders of both our countries and the other G-7 nations affirmed this week in the Netherlands, we will continue to coordinate closely on future actions and sanctions we may take against Russia,” he added.
Hammond said Russia’s action was completely unacceptable, and he called the Russian occupation of Crimea “illegal annexation of a sovereign territory.”
The United Kingdom stands with the United States and the rest of NATO in opposing the Russian action and supports “wide-ranging economic and diplomatic sanctions to force President Putin to stop his bullying behavior,” Hammond said.
“The Russian government should be in no doubt that should there be further acts of aggression, there will be further consequences for Russia,” he added.
Hammond confirmed that in addition to the offer of Royal Air Force Typhoon combat jets to bolster the Baltic air policing mission, the United Kingdom is working with its allies and partners to scope options for additional measures of reassurance to Eastern European and Baltic allies.
Hammond stated that evidence suggests that the Russian agenda is being run by Putin personally. “Other Russian players, including [Defense] Minister [Sergei] Shoigu, may express views, but it's a moot point, and we cannot know, we do not know, to what extent all of those people are really inside the inner circle in which President Putin is planning this exercise,” the British leader said.
The situation in Ukraine demonstrates the continued need for NATO, Hagel said. “The essential character and commitment of this alliance, of its 28 members to one another, remains unchanged, but we will look for new ways to collaborate and improve the alliance’s capabilities and readiness,” the secretary said. “That means we will make continued necessary investments in defense.”
The two men and their staffs also discussed the progress of the campaign in Afghanistan.
Both countries are grappling with budget constraints, and both leaders look on this as an opportunity to explore new areas of cooperation. Hammond said the United States and United Kingdom could work together in nuclear deterrence, special operations forces, intelligence, unmanned aerial vehicles, surveillance aircraft and carrier strike regeneration.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)