There must be consequences for Russia’s actions against Ukraine, the NATO secretary general said at the Brookings Institution yesterday.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the think tank that “the only way for us to address these challenges is for Europe and North America to stand together.”
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the world, the secretary general said. “Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine is a blatant breach of its international commitments, and it is a violation of Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “The annexation of Crimea through a so-called referendum held at gunpoint is illegal and illegitimate, and it undermines all efforts to find a peaceful political solution.”
The Russian action is a wake-up call for the Euro-Atlantic community, for NATO and for all those committed to a Europe whole, free and at peace, he said. The action directly violates the 1994 agreement Russia signed with Ukraine.
Further, the action has occurred right on NATO’s doorstep, the secretary general said.
Rasmussen called the action the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War and said the move threatens the freedom of 45 million people. He called the Russian action “21t-century revisionism” and labeled it as an attempt to turn back the clock to draw new dividing lines on the European map.
It also signals an attempt “to use force to solve problems rather than the international mechanisms that we have spent decades to build,” he said. “We had thought such behavior had been confined to history,” he added. “But it’s back, and it’s dangerous, because it violates international norms of accepted behaviors.”
Combating the move is not easy and will not be quick, the secretary general acknowledged, noting that it is the nature of democracies to debate, deliberate and consider the options before making decisions. The NATO nations do this because “we value transparency and seek legitimacy for our choices, and because we see force as the last not the first resort,” he said.
NATO has condemned Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and is standing firmly behind the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The alliance also is making it clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to escalate the situation have consequences.
“As a first step, we have suspended joint planning for maritime escort mission for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons,” Rasmussen said. “This would have been the first joint operation of the NATO-Russia Council.”
NATO has suspended all staff-level civilian or military meetings with Russia, and the alliance is re-examining the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation.
NATO foreign ministers will make decisions when they meet in Brussels early next month, the secretary general said. Still, the alliance will keep the door open for political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council. He hopes this will give Russia the opportunity to engage.
On the military side, the alliance has increased readiness. More assets have been assigned to the Baltic air police mission, and NATO has launched surveillance flights over Poland and Romania.
All this is in addition to steps allies have taken to impose diplomatic and economic consequences. “These are not our preferred choices,” Rasmussen said, “but they are inevitable and appropriate consequences of Russia’s choices.”
Press Release, March 20, 2014; Image: US Navy