In major strategy shift, NATO asks Russia to back off from Ukraine

Reuters Newport (Wales) | Updated on November 25, 2017 Published on September 04, 2014

Plans rapid reaction force after troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

NATO leaders were set to buttress support for Kiev and bolster their eastern defences at the summit which started on Thursday, spurred by the Ukraine crisis to enact the most radical shift in allied strategy towards Russia since the end of the Cold War.

US President Barack Obama and his 27 allies, meeting at a golf resort in Wales, will also discuss how to tackle the Islamic State straddling parts of Iraq and Syria, which has emerged as a new threat on the alliance’s southern flank, and how to stabilise Afghanistan when NATO forces leave at year’s end.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, the summit’s host, said pressure on Moscow would mount if it did not curtail military action in Ukraine which he branded unacceptable.

“What Russia needs to understand is if they continue with this approach in Ukraine, this pressure will be ramped up,” he told BBC television, adding that US and EU sanctions were already having an effect on the Russian economy.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose forces have suffered a string of setbacks at the hands of Russian-backed separatists in the south and east of the country in the last week, met Obama and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy just before the NATO summit started.

The Ukrainian leader was looking for arms, training and intelligence support for his armed forces as well as political support against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, his talk of reviving Ukraine’s bid to join the US-led military alliance could reopen a rift within NATO.

Obama said in Estonia on Wednesday the door to membership would remain open to states that meet NATO standards and “can make meaningful contributions to allied security”, but France and Germany remain opposed to admitting Kiev.

Territorial defence

A French official said NATO should contribute to easing tensions, not exacerbating them.

Poroshenko said he would order a ceasefire on Friday for Ukraine’s armed forces battling pro-Russian separatists, paving the way for implementation of a “stage-by-stage peace plan” for his country.

As more than a decade of NATO-led combat operations in Afghanistan draws to a close at year’s end, the 28-nation, US-led military alliance is refocusing in part on its core task of defending its territory.

NATO leaders will set up a ‘spearhead’ rapid reaction force, potentially including several thousand troops, that could be sent to a hotspot in as little as two days, officials say.

Eastern European NATO members, including Poland, have appealed to NATO to permanently station thousands of troops on its territory to deter any possible Russian attack.

But NATO members have spurned that idea, partly because of the expense and partly because they do not want to break a 1997 agreement with Russia under which NATO committed not to permanently station significant combat forces in the east.

Instead, NATO leaders will agree to pre-position equipment and supplies, such as fuel and ammunition, in eastern European countries with bases ready to receive the NATO rapid reaction force if needed.

NATO has said it has no plans to intervene militarily in Ukraine. Instead it has concentrated on beefing up the defences of eastern European countries that have joined the alliance in the last 15 years. Baltic countries fear that Russia could use the same rationale it applied in Crimea - defending Russian speakers - to meddle with them.

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Published on September 04, 2014
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