The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is finally intensifying cooperation with Ukraine by promoting defence reforms through building and development programmes. NATO will also send more experts to the NATO Liaison Office in Kyiv.

Is NATO finally putting their money where their mouth is?

NATO issued firm statements during the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The 28 independent member countries are once again reacting to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, but with a more rigid speech this time.

We, the Foreign Ministers of NATO, are united in our condemnation of Russia’s illegal military intervention in Ukraine and Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do not recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate attempt to annex Crimea.  We urge Russia to take immediate steps, as set out in the statement by the NATO-Ukraine Commission, to return to compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities, and to engage immediately in a genuine dialogue towards a political and diplomatic solution that respects international law and Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. We support the deployment of an OSCE monitoring mission to Ukraine.

We have decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia. Our political dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council can continue, as necessary, at the Ambassadorial level and above, to allow us to exchange views, first and foremost on this crisis. We will review NATO’s relations with Russia at our next meeting in June.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Courtesy of Slovenia Times
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. (Courtesy of Slovenia Times.)

NATO was also quick to commend the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

We commend the Armed Forces of Ukraine for their courage, discipline and restraint, in the face of provocation.

Canada Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird affirmed that the suspension of all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia is a step towards resolving the current Ukraine crisis.

“This is exactly what Canada did weeks ago. It’s not going to be business as usual so we’re suspending all civilian and military co-operation with the Russian Federation,” he told The Canadian Press in Brussels.

Baird also affirmed that Ukraine hasn’t requested to join NATO yet, as no discussions were held between him and Ukraine’s interim government during his last visit to Kyiv on the subject.

“Today, Ukraine is not a candidate country. You can’t make someone a member of a club, an organization, if they haven’t requested,” Baird said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reinforced NATO’s statement in a Press conference, after the first day of meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the importance of making the Ukrainian forces “more professional and more effective.” He also added that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was “the gravest threat to European security in a generation.”

Cold War 2.0?

According to Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent in Brussels, Russia’s forces are now estimated between 35,000 to 40,000 soldiers.

”NATO sources say some 35,000- 40,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine’s eastern border. The Russians say this is a military drill but I am told that what is worrying Western intelligence experts is that there is actually very little exercising going on. The troops are simply deployed and waiting. Tanks, mechanised infantry, and Special Forces – many of them among Russia’s most capable units – are all in the field and they have the logistical back-up to keep them there for some considerable time.”

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As of now, Russia has no plans to de-escalate the situation by withdrawing those troops from the Ukrainian border. Even though the spring conscription period started yesterday, Russia’s best equipped troops are still sitting on the border awaiting Putin’s orders. Will Russia ‘’blitzkrieg’’ to Transdniestria to meet with their stationed troops in the area?

NATO sure looks likes they are already drawing plans to be ready for intervention on the eastern borders of their member countries. Could an Article 5 be called in the near future by countries such as Estonia or Lithuania?

AWACs, warships and fighter jets are already moving to the East, and the United States also announced that more exercises will be held in the region.

Seems like we will see who wants to flex their muscles more between NATO and Russia in the near future!

(Featured Image Courtesy: KTVU)