Here are a few developing stories from the recent days, pertaining to NATO and Europe.
Vershbow Stirs up Trouble in Moldova
NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, the same official who two weeks ago declared that Russia is “more of an adversary than a partner” of NATO, traveled to the former Soviet republic of Moldova two days ago, apparently to promote that image of Russia with Moldova’s government. “My message today is that, if we are to enjoy a peaceful and prosperous European future, all countries must have the right to choose their own political and security destinies, including the nature of their relationship with NATO and other organizations and countries,” he said in a speech at the Moldova State University, released by the NATO press service. President Vladimir Putin “has chosen to establish a sphere of influence in Eurasia. And by imposing his choice, he will take away the right of other countries and other peoples to make their own choice.”
Greece’s Tsipras Expresses Solidarity with Russia in Crisis
Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Greek opposition party Syriza, is in Moscow for meetings. On May 12, he and representatives of his party met with Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament. Matviyenko reminded Tsipras that she would like to come to Greece, but is unable to, because Greece has agreed to the European Union sanctions which have her on the list of sanctioned individuals.
Tsipras reportedly said that the solution to the Ukrainian crisis lies in diplomacy rather than military intervention and underlined the importance of Russia for security in Europe.
According to unnamed sources cited by the Greek daily To Vima, Tsipras intends to pursue a “multidimensional foreign policy” and Moscow approached Syriza as a potential Greek government, suggesting an improvement in contacts and relations between the two sides.
Tsipras traveled to Moscow from Berlin where he had attended the party convention of Die Linke, the German sister party of Syriza. In his Berlin speech, Tsipras called for the removal of “fascist elements” from the Ukrainian government as the precondition for peace efforts. “It is absolutely unacceptable that we have a government right in the heart of Europe with the participation of neo-Nazi elements, as happens in Ukraine. Europe should demand the immediate withdrawal of all fascist elements from all levels of government as a precondition for peace to be restored,” he told delegates.
Czech Defense Minister Says Czech Republic Opposes Hosting NATO Troops
The Defense Minister of the Czech Republic Martin Stropnicky, in an interview with Reuters news agency, said that his government does not support the permanent stationing of NATO troops in his country in connection with the situation in Ukraine. In voicing Czech opposition to NATO troops being stationed in the country, Stropnicky said his country remembers the lessons of 1968 when the foreign troops were stationed in the country. At that time, Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops brutally intervened into the country’s politics and helped the Soviet invasion force. “We know well how any permanent stationing is still a problem,” Stropnicky said, adding that he still supports the expansion of cooperation on training and other activities of the alliance.
Stopnicky’s remarks were in response to last week’s comments by NATO military commander Gen. Philip Breedlove (USAF), that because of the Ukraine situation, NATO member countries may consider permanently stationing troops in Eastern Europe.
Update on NATO Military Exercises
NATO marches on with its war-gaming. Some 1,000 troops from the 1st Cavalry Division of Fort Hood, Texas have broken out the M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles stored at the NATO training range in Grafenwöhr, Germany, for Exercise Combined Resolve II. It involves about 4,000 troops from 13 countries — among them Romania and Bulgaria and non-NATO member Georgia — practicing high-intensity combat against a similarly equipped foe. Meanwhile, US special forces are exercising in each of the three Baltic states. From May 18-30, Lithuania will host Flaming Sword 14, a multinational special operations exercise that will involve troops from the US European Command and six other countries. Nearly simultaneously, will be Latvia’s annual national-level defense exercise, which will also involve US special forces troops, running from May 19-25. Already underway is Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia, which kicked off on May 8. These will be followed by smaller Joint Combined Exchange Training events, which are aimed at establishing a “persistent, rotational” presence of US special forces in all three of the Baltic countries and two other countries in Eastern Europe to be named later.