NATO Suspends Cooperation with Russia, Bolsters Border Security

World | April 2, 2014, Wednesday // 11:55|  views

NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has ruled military support for Ukraine, but has spoken in favour of stepping up security at Russia's borders and giving defense assistance to Ukraine, Photo by EPA/BGNES

NATO's Foreign ministers agreed Tuesday to suspend civilian and military cooperation with Russia.

The decision does not scrap the NATO-Russia Council, but dialogue which was based on it could continue only "at ambassadorial level".

At a meeting in Brussels, measures were approved to bolster Eastern Europe's defense in Poland and the Baltic region and boost cooperation with former Soviet states for which Russia is a northern neighbor.

Military assistance to Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia is now to be increased, even though participants in the meeting made clear their goal of a Euro-Atlantic region that is "free and at peace".

No agreement was however reached on Poland's repeated proposal to permanently install NATO forces at its eastern flank, a move that could be considered a direct threat to Russia.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski openly called for two NATO brigades to be stationed in the country, the Guardian has reported.

In a statement, NATO condemned Russia's "military intervention" in Crimea as "illegal" and as an act of "violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Russia's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to the bloc's actions, but on its website Speaker Aleksander Lukashevich has described them as creating a "deja vu effect" resembling "language from the Cold War". He also said that it is not Russia and NATO who is set to win from ending collaboration in fields such as fighting terrorism and piracy.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has made remarks on his Twitter profile, saying that similar measures were approved in September 2008 after Russian actions in South Ossetia.

He also reminded, somewhat sardonically, that "they [NATO] were cold as ice for three months until December. What this means is a Cold war".

The Foreign Ministers declared their dismissal of Russian claims that 40 000-strong forces are being pulled back from the borders with Ukraine, as the Kremlin earlier sought to assert.

Angela Merkel, who also attended the meeting, cited reports according to which "the concentration of troops along the Ukrainian border is very high".

US general Philip Breedlove, who is NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe, was quoted as saying that Russia's buildup was "very, very sizeable and very, very ready".

Russia had a central place in NATO's discussions after Crimea's incorporation into its territory in mid-March following a regional referendum which approved secession from Ukraine.

Since then, the alliance has issued repeated warnings that the concentration of Russian forces at its south-western borders could have negative repercussions for other Ukrainian regions and ex-Soviet states as a whole.

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Russia's annexation of Ukraine was "the gravest threat to European security for a generation".

The Guardian has commented the alliance's decision by stating that two decades after the end of the Cold war, NATO governments returned "to their core mission of protecting Europe from Russia".

Further measures, or review of the current situation, are due to be decided upon at the next meeting of the 28-member bloc in June.

NATO's moves have so far stopped short of inviting Ukraine into NATO, something that Russia has insistently warned Kiev against.

Ukrainian lawmakers nevertheless voted Tuesday in favour of holding joint exercises with NATO on the country's territory.

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Tags: Philip Breedlove, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Angela Merkel, Radoslaw Sikorski, Ukraine, Crimea, Russia, NATO, Aleksander Lukashevich

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