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Official: Russia’s Actions in Ukraine Have ‘Dire Implications’

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2014 – Russia’s unlawful actions in Ukraine have dire implications for international and regional security and may lead to a reassessment of force posture in Europe, a Defense Department policy official told Congress today.

Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, testified on Russian military developments with Navy Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, the Joint Staff’s director of strategic plans and policy, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“Russia’s unlawful military intervention against Ukraine challenges our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace,” Chollet said. “It changes Europe’s security landscape, it causes instability on NATO’s borders, and it is a challenge to the international order.”

The United States has pursued three courses of action, Chollet said, since the outset of this crisis.

“First, demonstrating support to Ukraine’s transitional government,” he said. “Second, reassuring allies and deterring Russia from further military threats to Europe, and third, imposing costs on Russia for its illegal actions.”

The Defense Department, Chollet noted, has an important role in achieving all three objectives.

To support Ukraine, he said, the United States has worked with partners such as the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, European Union and the Group of Seven to provide Ukraine with political backing and economic assistance, including a $18 billion package from the International Monetary Fund.

“For our part,” Chollet said, “the Department of Defense is working with Ukraine to review, prioritize and grant its defense assistance request for materials and supplies that would serve to support Ukraine without taking actions that would escalate this crisis militarily.”

The initial round of this process, he said, was completed last week, when 300,000 packaged meals were delivered to support Ukrainian forces in the field.

Chollet said DOD also has maintained senior-level defense dialogue with Ukrainian counterparts throughout the crisis.

“We have led efforts at NATO to offer Ukraine greater access to NATO exercises, invited Ukraine to participate in the development of military capabilities and provided capacity-building programs to the Ukrainian military,” he said.

The second course of action, Chollet said, is reassuring U.S. allies and deterring Russia from further military action in Europe. Chollet described reassurance measures so far as augmenting NATO’s peacetime Baltic air policing mission, deploying air assets and personnel to Poland to supplement the U.S.-Poland aviation detachment, and extending the USS Truxtun’s stay in the Black Sea to conduct exercises with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces.

“We’ll also send another ship to the Black Sea within a week,” he added.

Imposing cost on Russia, Chollet said, is the third course of action.

“Russia’s violations of its own agreements and international law require a vigorous, coordinated response,” he said. “The United States has led the international community in isolating Russia diplomatically.”

Along with the EU, Canada and Australia, Chollet said, the United States has imposed visa restrictions and comprehensive sanctions on a growing list of Russian officials.

This includes a Russian bank, members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, as well as Ukrainians who played a role in undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and misappropriating Ukrainian assets.

“As the president has made clear,” Chollet said, “the sanctions we have imposed to date are not the end of what we can do.” DOD has suspended all military-to-military engagements with Russia, he noted, including exercises, bilateral meetings, important visits and planning conferences.

“Although we have worked hard over two decades to try to build a cooperative, transparent defense relationship with Russia,” he said, “the violations of international law and the undermining of stability in Europe mean that we cannot proceed with business as usual.”

Chollet pointed out that NATO and other allies have also suspended military cooperation with Russia while maintaining channels for dialogue that can serve to de-escalate tensions.

“While we do not seek military confrontation with Russia,” he said, “its actions in Europe and Eurasia may require the United States to re-examine our force posture in Europe and our requirement for future deployments, exercises and training in the region.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have dire implications for international and regional security, Chollet said.

“This has caused a paradigm shift in our relations with Moscow,” he added, “and this crisis is not one that has been generated by the West or United States.”

Chollet said he believes Russia has pursued this “crisis of choice” to further a distorted view of its own interests, which will only lead to its further isolation.

(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)


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Derek Chollet

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