NATO and Europe

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.”
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Vershbow promised that “NATO enlargement will continue because we are an open alliance and several of our partners want to join.” He added, “We in NATO understand and respect that Moldova is a neutral country, even if we also know that ‘neutral’ does not mean ‘uninterested’. So we are keen to deepen our partnership, and to help you to continue on your path towards the level of European and Euro-Atlantic integration that you find most appropriate for your country.”According to a NATO press release, Vershbow met with President Nicolae Timofti, Prime Minister Lurie Leanca, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Natalia Gherman, and the Chairman of the Moldovan Parliament, Igor Corman. Topics of discussion included NATO support for wide-ranging reforms, assistance to the preparation of strategic documents, defense planning and budgeting, and enhancing military education and training. AFP notes that Vershbow’s visit to Chisinau followed by just days, a visit to the Transdniestr region of Moldova by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin.

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.
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Tsipras attended an event at the Institute of Strategic Studies in the Kremlin on the geopolitical and strategic developments in the greater region. There were concerns that in the recent period Greek and Russian relations have not flourished.Tsipras is also scheduled to meet with Vladimir Titov, first deputy foreign minister, who has responsibility for Russian-European relations; Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma’s foreign affairs committee; and Ivan Melnikov, vice-chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and a Member of the Duma (the lower house of parliament). A meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was reportedly cancelled due to the ongoing developments in Ukraine.

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.

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