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NATO: Russia’s Moves Have Changed Europe, the World

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, May 21, 2014 – Russia’s annexation of Crimea and threats to southern and eastern Ukraine has made the world a different place, a senior NATO military official said.

The Russian moves endanger NATO’s aspiration of a Europe “whole, free and at peace,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, the deputy chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. “Maybe the freedom of every country is not assured now either.”

Schissler spoke to reporters traveling with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey is here for the Chiefs of Defense Meeting.

The chiefs of defense discussed Russia-Ukraine during their meetings at NATO headquarters.

Russia’s moves in Crimea and Ukraine are really new threats to the alliance. NATO officials have trouble describing what has taken place there and what the appropriate reactions are.

“It’s not warfare. It is confrontation. It is aggression,” Schissler said.

“It is hard to understand,” he continued. “It is not classic military warfare. It’s not purely political, it’s not purely military. Clearly there is an information dynamic here that covers the entire aspect of it.”

Russian troops did not wear uniforms, making it difficult to say who the actors are. All of NATO’s reactions have been defensive in nature, and have been transparent. Moving aircraft to the Baltic Air Policing mission, moving aircraft to Poland, moving ships to the Baltic Sea and Black Sea are all prudent, defensive moves.

Sending troops to exercise with the Baltic Republics and Poland is in that same vein.

These steps have satisfied and pleased the nations that felt threatened, officials said.

Officials stressed that one in NATO wants to respond to the situation in a way that provokes a bigger outcome or bigger confrontation. From the first, NATO leaders have asked the Russians to de-escalate the situation. They have asked the Russians to move their 40,000 troops away from the border with Ukraine and do things to lessen the crisis first in Crimea, later throughout Ukraine.

While the alliance needs to engage with Russia, the events of the past months cannot be forgotten. “You can’t set the clock back and pretend nothing happened in the past two months,” Schissler said. “A lot of things happened and so we will have to re-set to a new reality.”

The chiefs also discussed Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force mission continues through the end of the year. Officials are hopeful that a new Afghan president will sign the basic security agreement and that the alliance will get the necessary status-of-forces agreement necessary for the follow-on mission, Operation Resolute Support.

“I haven’t heard a trend that says we think this whole thing is coming apart, we’re not going to do it,” Schissler said. “Everyone is committed to the plan that NATO has developed over this year to do Resolute Support and we’re hopeful and 100 percent committed to launch the mission once the legal framework is in place.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneAFPS)

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