The Danish leader of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will meet with his members in Wales this week, where the 28 nations are expected to conceive “a very high-readiness force” that would counter Russian aggression in Ukraine and other conflicts. The effort would include the stockpiling of supplies and military equipment.
The force will be part of a larger Readiness Action Plan that is expected to be birthed at the meeting. The military group could indeed be expected to answer Russia’s aggressiveness in Ukraine, but also will be equipped “to respond to all security challenges, wherever they may arise,” he said.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, said at a pre-summit news conference that the “spearhead” force would “travel light, but strike hard if needed.” Included in the discussions, which will be attended by United States President Barack Obama, will be NATO examining possible infrastructure upgrades, like ports and airfields.
The recent presence of Russian military on Ukraine soil – although not unexpected – has turned up the heat in the West as to how to respond. Prior to Russia’s arrival, pro-Russia separatists inside Ukraine were supported by the country in resources only.
The idea for the new force has been brewing at least since Russia boldly annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March. Proximal NATO countries like Poland have lobbied hard for such an alliance. Others have been wary, however, for fear that such actions could threaten the results of a 1997 NATO summit with Russia. The Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security outlined the desires and expectations for cooperation between NATO and Russia in the future. At the time, both sides declared a commitment to create a “lasting and inclusive” peace in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Although the concept of NATO rapid response team(s) is supported by the White House, National Security spokesperson Caitlin Hayden was quick to clarify that such forces would be for defensive purposes only. She said that the push is not intended to provoke or threaten Russia, “but rather as a demonstration of NATO’s continued commitment to our collective defense.”
One NATO official stated that whatever plan comes out of Wales will need to be flexible enough “to deal with all crises” that may arrive, as well as “wherever they might come.” In attendance at the summit will be Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, who hopes to secure more support through the NATO effort.
One group keeping an eye on the daily circumstances in eastern Ukraine is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the world’s largest intergovernmental, security-oriented organization. A spokesman for that group, Michael Bociurkiw, said that the Ukrainian army is “very, very unarmed compared to the [pro-Russian] rebels.”
Speaking recently before the Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK), Prime Minister David Cameron said that it looks as if Russia is “trying to force Ukraine to abandon its democratic choices through the barrel of a gun.” He also announced that new sanctions will soon be drafted by the European Union.
As if to prove the point, airfields in eastern Ukraine were attacked on Monday by a Russian army tank. Ukrainian counter-terrorism officers reported that a battle remains under way at the city airport of Luansk. A lack of electricity and water there has led Ukrainian officials to warn of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
Also on Monday, Ukraine announced that one of its watercraft patrolling in the Sea of Azov had lost two of its crew after the boat was attacked and subsequently capsized. As well, President Poroshenko said that the number of uninvited troops in his country from Russia number in the thousands. Russia continues to deny that such troops exist in Ukraine.
Russia has justified its support of Ukraine’s separatist rebels by blaming Kiev (the seat of Ukraine’s government) for firing upon private homes in Ukraine, as well as hospitals and schools. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said that the militia his country supports are left “with no choice but to stand up to protect their people.” He warned that if the separatists were to lay down their weapons that they would then “allow themselves to be killed.”
By Gregory Baskin