Gen. Philip Breedlove attends a news conference at the end of the 170th NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels on Jan. 23. European Pressphoto Agency
Russia Calls Alliance’s Decision to Suspend Cooperation a Throwback to Cold War
By Naftali Bendavid
The Wall Street Journal
Russia’s foreign ministry Wednesday said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s suspension of civilian and military cooperation over the annexation of Crimea was a throwback to the Cold War that will be just as detrimental to the Western alliance as it is to Russia.
Meanwhile, the top military commander of NATO said he will submit a “reassurance package” to NATO representatives by April 15 aimed at enhancing the alliance’s response to Russia’s recent aggressive positioning.
In an interview, Gen. Philip Breedlove also said the Russian forces massed on Ukraine’s border could potentially accomplish a major incursion into eastern or southern Ukraine in three to five days. He characterized the 40,000 Russian troops as “a very large and very capable and very ready force,” adding that the situation is “very concerning.”
On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers said they were suspending “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia, which could affect Syria and counter-piracy operations. The officials said cooperation in Afghanistan would continue.
Russia said the suspension would be harmful. “It isn’t hard to imagine who will win from the rolling back of joint Russia-NATO collaboration to counter modern threats and challenges to global and European security, particularly the fight against terrorism, piracy, and natural and man-made disasters,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. “That would definitely not be Russia or NATO member countries.”
NATO foreign ministers also directed Gen. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, to come up with a plan that could include deploying forces and equipment in Eastern Europe, beefing up military exercises and increasing the readiness of NATO’s rapid-response force.
NATO officials are concerned by the Russian deployment at the border with Ukraine in part because it includes equipment that could support a major incursion, such as mechanized infantry, armored units, attack helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, special forces and logistics.
Some NATO members closest to Russia have also made it clear they would welcome a higher-visibility NATO presence on their soil.
Mr. Breedlove said he would give NATO representatives a list of options, but would also submit his specific recommendations as to which ones to choose. The options would cover land, sea and air, he said, as well as the northern, central and southern sections of Russia’s western border.
“This new paradigm, and these actions by Russia, clearly should cause us to rethink our positioning and posturing of NATO forces,” Gen. Breedlove said.
Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, told the Interfax news agency that allegations that his country poses a threat to NATO countries “are absolutely groundless and far-fetched.”
“The additional measures announced [by NATO] and aimed at the so-called protection of the Eastern European members are absolutely unfounded,” he was quoted as saying.
Write to Naftali Bendavid at email@example.com