The Times West Virginian

Headline News

April 2, 2014

NATO to beef up eastern defenses

BRUSSELS — NATO foreign ministers moved Tuesday to beef up the defenses of front-line alliance members feeling menaced by a more assertive Russia, with Secretary of State John Kerry proclaiming the U.S. commitment to their security is “unwavering.”

The ministers from NATO’s 28 member nations also ordered suspension of all “practical civilian and military cooperation” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, though they made sure a line of communication with the Kremlin remains open at the ambassadorial level.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, keystone of U.S. and European security since the end of World War II, is facing its most acute geopolitical crisis in years: the fallout from Moscow’s unilateral annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which the Obama administration and its allies condemn as a brazen, illegal land grab.

On Tuesday, an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 Russian troops equipped with tanks, other armored vehicles and fixed and rotary wing aircraft remained positioned near the border with Ukraine, a NATO military official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The military official described the Russian buildup as “a complete combat force” that was highly threatening to Ukraine.

Those troops, and future aggressive moves that Putin’s Kremlin may make, have become a troubling concern for NATO countries, especially the alliance’s eastern-most members — the Baltic states, Poland, and Romania, all of which were once in Moscow’s orbit.

To reassure those skittish allies, Kerry told a news conference, the U.S. has already sent six F-15 fighters to perform air patrols over the Baltic, deployed a dozen F-16s to Poland and dispatched the USS Truxtun, a guided-missile destroyer, to the Black Sea.

“And more U.S. support is on the way,” Kerry said.

At the Tuesday afternoon meeting he attended with the foreign ministers, the secretary said, “more allies pledged their own contributions to make sure every ally from the Baltic to the Black Sea feels secure.” He did not provide details.

A senior U.S. defense official said the U.S. was also likely to send a small team of soldiers to Europe and was encouraging NATO allies to contribute more aircraft to the Baltic air patrol mission.

Despite annexing Crimea, Putin and other Kremlin officials have said that Russia has no intention of invading other areas of Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu insisted Tuesday the Kremlin wants a “political settlement that would take interests and rights of the entire Ukrainian people into account.”

Meeting behind closed doors, Kerry and his Canadian and European colleagues agreed unanimously on steps NATO must take in response to Russian actions.

A civilian alliance official who attended the session and briefed reporters afterward on condition of anonymity said the measures include possible deployment and reinforcement of military assets in NATO member countries that feel Moscow’s actions may pose a security threat, as well as an increase of readiness levels for NATO rapid response forces. Other steps include a review of NATO’s crisis response plans, as well as military training and exercise schedules.

While NATO ordered the suspension of “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said later he thought some mutually beneficial cooperation programs with the Russians might continue, such as the project to train anti-narcotics personnel in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The four-star U.S. Air Force general who is NATO’s supreme military commander, Philip Breedlove, has been ordered to devise plans to provide visible reassurance to alliance countries in Central and Eastern Europe that other NATO nations are ready to help protect them “on land, air and at sea,” Kerry said.

America’s commitment to NATO’s core principle — that an attack on one alliance member shall be considered an attack on all — is “unwavering,” the secretary said.    

NATO ministers also met Tuesday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytisa. Kerry said “they stood together in defense of Ukraine’s right to choose its future and in defense of international law.” Kerry blasted what he called Russia’s “tactics of intimidation, especially deployment of unprecedented forces around Ukraine’s borders.”

On Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said one battalion — about 500 troops — had been pulled back, but NATO’s secretary general downplayed talk of a major withdrawal.

“This is not what we have seen,” Rasmussen told reporters. “And this massive military buildup can in no way contribute to a de-escalation of the situation — a de-escalation that we all want to see. So I continue to urge Russia to pull back its troops, live up to its international obligation and engage in a constructive dialogue with Ukraine.”

Deshchytisa, the Ukrainian foreign minister, told a separate news conference that NATO ministers had treated Ukraine’s situation with “understanding and support and knowledge.”  

His country doesn’t need weapons, the Ukrainian official said, but is hoping for “military technical equipment.” He said a delegation of experts from NAT0 member countries was expected to visit Kiev next week for consultations.

In other developments, Russia sharply hiked the price for natural gas to Ukraine and threatened to reclaim billions in previous discounts, raising the heat on Ukraine’s cash-strapped government.

Alexei Miller, the head of Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant, said the company has withdrawn December’s discount that put the price of gas at $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters and set the price Tuesday at $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters for the second quarter.

The move is expected to eventually hit Ukrainian consumers hard. Household gas prices in Ukraine are set to rise 50 percent beginning May 1.

The Russian discount was part of a financial lifeline that Putin offered Ukraine’s now fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, after his decision to ditch a pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow. The move fueled three months of protests that sent Yanukovych fleeing to Russia in February.

Also Tuesday, the Russian parliament annulled its deal with Ukraine to rent its Black Sea Fleet’s base in Crimea until 2042 for $98 million a year as well as discounts for Russian natural gas.

In Kiev, Ukrainian police moved to disarm members of a radical nationalist group after a shooting spree. Such groups played a key role in Yanukovych’s ouster, but quickly fell out with the new government in Kiev. Many activists are still encamped on Kiev’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan, and have signaled their intent to remain until the May 25 presidential election.

Last week, a leader of the most prominent radical group, the Right Sector, was shot dead while resisting police. Right Sector members then besieged parliament for hours, demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. They lifted the blockade after lawmakers set up a panel to investigate the killing.

Late Monday, a Right Sector member shot and wounded three people outside a restaurant adjacent to Independence Square, triggering a standoff that lasted overnight.

Police responded by surrounding the Dnipro Hotel, which Right Sector had commandeered as its headquarters, demanding that the radicals lay down their weapons and leave. Avakov said Right Sector members agreed Tuesday to do so.

——

Vladimir Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Peter Leonard in Kiev, David Rising in Berlin and Geir Moulson in Weimar, Germany, contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 28, 2014

  • Obama Exporting Pollu_time.jpg ‘Not in my backyard’: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

    As  the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.
    This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama’s strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
    The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

    July 28, 2014

  • Plan to simplify health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.
    Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
    If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.

    July 28, 2014

  • W.Va. Judge: WVU, IMG College deal is OK

    A judge has denied a motion by West Virginia Radio Corp. to toss the media rights contract between West Virginia University and IMG College.
    Media outlets report Monongalia County business court circuit judge Thomas Evans set aside a motion for summary judgment against WVU and others.
    West Virginia Radio was seeking to void any contract entered by WVU and IMG. West Virginia Radio unsuccessfully bid on the contract, then filed a motion for summary judgment in February, claiming school officials violated state procurement laws.
    Evans ruled the code cited by the plaintiffs didn’t apply to the $86.5 million, 12-year agreement reached last year.

    July 28, 2014

  • Powerful storms rip through eastern U.S.

    Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Lawmakers say Obama too aloof with Congress

    President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress.

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S. faces intelligence hurdles in downing of airliner

    A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.

    July 27, 2014

  • House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some

    More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads