News / Europe

Russia, NATO Spar Over Military Forces in Central Europe

A pro-Russian activist regulates road traffic at a checkpoint outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Druzhkovka, June 2, 2014.
A pro-Russian activist regulates road traffic at a checkpoint outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Druzhkovka, June 2, 2014.
James Brooke
— With Russia pulling most of its roughly 40,000 troops away from its border with Ukraine, NATO and Russia have started sparring over the nation’s new cross-border tactic.  

As armed units from Russia mount daily attacks on Ukrainian border posts, Russia warned the Western military alliance Monday not to shift forces East.

Russia's Representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, told Interfax news agency if the Kremlin sees "a shifting of NATO's military potential towards the 'eastern wing," Russia will take measures necessary so its security is not affected.

Grushko spoke as Russia and NATO prepared to meet on Monday for the first time in three months. Ukraine is not a member of NATO.

Cross border attacks from Russia are expected to dominate debate Tuesday and Wednesday in a NATO defense chiefs meeting.

Thursday, Russia’s support for Ukrainian separatists is expected to overshadow ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. That event is to be attended by President Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President elect, Petro Poroshenko, among other heads of state.

In the latest cross border attack, Ukrainian border forces in Luhansk said they battled an assault Monday by 500 armed men coming from Russia.
 
FILE - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen holds a news conference at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Apr. 16, 2014.FILE - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen holds a news conference at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Apr. 16, 2014.
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FILE - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen holds a news conference at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Apr. 16, 2014.
FILE - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen holds a news conference at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Apr. 16, 2014.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is taking a hard line on military attacks from Russia. On a visit Friday to Lithuania, a former Soviet Republic on the Baltic Sea, he said:

“Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine is a game changer. What does not change is NATO’s core task to defend  our allies against attack.  And make no mistake, NATO will defend every part of the alliance.  No ally stands alone,” he said.

Saying he had no doubt Russia is destabilizing Ukraine, he added: “We continue to call on Russia to stop supporting armed pro-Russian gangs and seal the border so that we do not see arms and fighters crossing into Ukraine.”

During the past two weeks the Kremlin has moved most of its 40,000 troops away from Ukraine’s border.  Instead of sending Russian Army units into Ukraine, the Kremlin appears to be sending arms and military “volunteers” across its highly porous land border with Ukraine.

Russia denies sending any military aid across the border.

Growing tensions

Meanwhile, Russian state television has reshaped Russian opinion to see Ukrainians as enemies of Russia.

In a nationwide poll conducted last month, Levada Poll found that 56 percent of respondent opposed sending the Russian Army into Ukraine. But a nearly equal percentage, 58 percent, supported Russia sending arms and military advisors to southeastern Ukraine.

On Saturday, Eduard Limonov, a nationalist opposition leader unexpectedly found that he was given a downtown Moscow demonstration permit and a megaphone.

He shouted to the crowd: “Poles, Lithuanians, Baltics, Finns - they were all against us with Hitler, and before that with Napoleon. Then they were at the gathering on the Maidan.”

Nearby, Ramil Gizatullin, a dentist, stood with a large banner calling for Russia’s recognition of the self-styled republic of Novorossiya, an entity that would combined Ukraine’s two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.

He said he wanted a tougher Kremlin policy toward Kyiv -- cutting off the gas, and recognition of Novorossiya.

Hudson Institute security expert Richard Weitz says Russia’s verbal and military aggression is having an impact in the West.

“One consequence of Ukraine is that it looks like it could create NATO cohesion," he said.

Putin may have decided to pull back from an overt military attack on Ukraine for fear of having to pay a heavy economic price.

The limited Western sanctions appear to be pushing Russia into a recession this year. Stock market and ruble exchange rate volatility are scaring off foreign investment.

During the first four months of this year, $55 billion flowed out of Russia, almost equal to the entire amount for all of last year, and international bond markets have largely closed to Russian companies and banks. Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine, no Russian company has been able to sell a foreign currency bond.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
June 02, 2014 8:38 PM
THESE Russian border crossers aren't like all the terrorists crossing into Syria from Turkey and Jordan, that the US, EU, and NATO countries, and the Saudi and Qataris (arm and supply?) --- (NO?) --- these Russians and visitors from the Russian side, are visiting relatives and bring food that's special, and hard to find...
NOBODY want's peace, more than Putin? -- (BUT?) -- I wonder how long he'll be able to hold back his anger, while Russian speaking innocent people are being killed by those neo-Nazi and Right Sector thugs?

In Response

by: jim brooke from: moscow
June 03, 2014 9:08 AM
Meanbill,
In case you missed the news, Ukraine had an election 10 days ago where a centrist candidate, Petro Poroshenko, won an unprecedented first round victory, winning majorities from across Ukraine. The exceptions were Lugansk and Donetsk where masked, armed men destroyed voting boxes in front of cameras, presumably to educate Eastern Ukraine on the way voting is carried out across the border in Russia. (Winners are decided in advance).

Meanwhile, Ukraine's two hard right parties got less than 2 percent combined. By comparison, the National Front in France got 25 percent. Why does Russia's state-controlled TV soldier on with the 'nazi fascist' namecalling? They do this largely because this resonates with Russians, all of whom grew on Soviet propaganda movies from the 1950s and 1960s, which showed Western Ukrainians as Nazis, and Red Army troops as Communist liberators.
What the Soviet films did not show is that the mortality rate for Soviet security personnel in Western Ukraine from 1945-1954 was higher than the rate for Soviet security personnel during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Presumably, President Putin, whose pre-politics career was with the KGB, knows of the real military difficulties of confronting Ukrainian partisans. As a result, he seems to have pulled back from committing Russian Army units inside Ukraine.
Jim Brooke
Moscow

In Response

by: Huang Zhang from: Hong Kong
June 03, 2014 2:15 AM
Meanbill from Russia, you better read the above true article first before putting your silly comments. Your words not reflecting the reality on the ground. Actually, Putin is Hitler's heir to mount the horrors on human beings in this 21st century. Putin dirtily plundered Crimea and now he spreading his arm-terrorist men around Ukraine in hope to take more land from Ukraine. No doubt, Putin will rob your home too.


by: Anonymous
June 02, 2014 4:50 PM
What is happening inthe east side of the russia while this is going on

In Response

by: Huang Zhang from: Hong Kong 593480
June 03, 2014 1:37 PM
Do not petrify: Volan from: South-Africa (in fact, you are a dumb Russian), as I have checked your location. The world stands with Ukrainian people and you under Putin dictator, a loser, would face a lonely isolation on International stage as a robber of Ukrainian territory.

In Response

by: Volan from: South-Africa
June 03, 2014 7:26 AM
Huang Zhang from Hong Kong, you better read another article that will explain the situation better than the American propoganda article you see above. Plundered Crimea?! C'mon! Not one single shot was fired. It was a referendum that was voted by the people of Crimea whom are Russians and always will be. Reality on the ground? Why are civilians asking the military to stop the fighting and not the pro-russian people? Because the civilians or (pro-russian fighters) is the people standing up against their government that is a farce!

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