As of the night of April 15th, NATO still has not announced what measures NATO Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove has proposed for “reassuring” NATO’s eastern European members. There are, nonetheless, further moves towards confrontation over Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen came out of a meeting with EU defense ministers, yesterday morning, calling for a de facto merger of NATO and the EU, saying that the Ukraine crisis shows the need for greater cooperation between the organizations.
“We need to train and exercise more together, for instance, the NATO Response Force and the EU Battlegroups, so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring,” he said.
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground, in the air, and on the waters surrounding the region grows hotter. The Pentagon took great exception to the buzzing of the USS Donald Cook by a Russian SU-24 fighter bomber on Saturday.
“This provocative and unprecedented Russian action is inconsistent with international protocols and previous agreements on the professional interaction between our militaries,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters, April 14th. He called the incident “unprecedented” and said that there had been no contact between the two militaries since the incident. The Russian fighter-bomber reportedly made a dozen passes over or near the ship, at altitudes as low as 500 feet, in a 90-minute period, but was unarmed. Attempts from the Donald Cook’s bridge to contact the Russian pilot went unanswered.
The Donald Cook is now reported to be in the Romanian port of Constanta, where Romanian President Traian Basescu held a press conference to announce that another U.S. ship will be deploying into the Black Sea after the Cook leaves. This is so far not otherwise confirmed.
In Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited the U.S. airmen deployed to the Lask air base and thanked them for coming to Poland. “Your presence in Lask gives us a greater sense of security in today’s difficult times,” he told them, according to Polish Radio.
In Lithuania, the government in Vilnius has changed its plans to modernize its early warning radar system along the Belarusian border, by deciding to build three new radars rather than the previously planned two. “The changing security situation imposes [the need to adapt] new solutions,” said Defense Minister Juozas Olekas. “We shouldn’t only rely on the support of our allies, but also take greater responsibility for our own safety.”
In Kiev, the coup-appointed president, Oleksandr Turchynov, is calling for UN peacekeeping troops to come to eastern Ukraine to help restore order. In a telephone call with Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, yesterday, Turchynov suggested that an “anti-terrorist operation” be conducted jointly by Ukrainian security forces and UN peacekeepers, reported AP. If any “peacekeepers” come to Ukraine, they won’t be authorized by the UN, because Russia has a veto on the UN Security Council.
Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, responded to all this and the more that’s likely coming, by warning that, while Russia has no intention of returning to the Cold War, “we will take into account in our military planning any possible changes in NATO forces and configurations and, if necessary, will take necessary measures in the interests of ensuring our security.”