On Wednesday, NATO’s chief military officer warned that if given the order, Russian troops could invade Ukraine within 12 hours. General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s military commander in Europe stated that NATO had noticed that the Russian force had moved overnight and that there was no sign of them returning to their barracks.
Calling the situation concerning, Gen. Breedlove was quoted as saying that, “This is a very large, very ready and very capable force,” in an interview with The Wall Street Journal and CNN. NATO’s biggest concern is that within 3-5 days, the Russian troops could move into Ukraine to establish a land corridor to Crimea, take over the Ukrainian port of Odessa or occupying Transdniestria, which is a separatist, Russian-speaking region of Maldova.
Breedlove stated that the Russians amassed on the Ukrainian border have everything they need should they decide to move on Ukraine, including field hospitals, aircraft and electronic warfare devices and, “the entire suite that would be required to successfully have an incursion into Ukraine, should need be,”
Because of Russia’s actions in Crimea and the estimated 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, NATO has discontinued all cooperation with Moscow. NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the aggression by the Russians is, “the greatest threat to European security in a generation,” he went on to say that it challenges a vision of freedom and peace between nations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea challenged the fact that nations borders would not be redrawn by force and that Russian aggression towards Ukraine is a “wake-up call”.
NATO has already began to strengthen it’s military presence in Black Sea nations because of the possible Russian threat. Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO itself, the 28 member institution said that if Russia does invade Ukraine it posed a threat to Europe as a whole.
NATO ministers have asked Gen. Breedlove to draft a plan by April 15th that would outline reinforcements by land, air and sea, should Russia decide to move on Ukraine. Breedlove said that the initial moves by the United States to deploy a ship in the Black Sea (initially for exercises with US allies) and more US aircraft patrol of the Black Sea could serve as a blueprint for what NATO should do.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that on Monday during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he stated that he would withdraw several hundred troops deeper into Russia, however, NATA has seen no signs of this happening.
When asked to comment on her conversation with Putin, Merkel stated that she could only take him at his word but that she would see if it was happening or not.
Although the situation seems to be escalating militarily, Breedlove stressed the importance of finding a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, stating that any military action, or war could be costly to European countries and all nations involved. He did however say that the alliance is going to look at how they are prepared for a different situation and that NATO will strengthen its force if need be.
By Nathaniel Pownell