U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said the buildup of Russian troops on the country’s border with Ukraine means NATO forces need to reposition themselves and increase their readiness.
Russian troops massing at the border are “very, very sizable and very, very credible,” Breedlove, the top NATO commander, said today at the German Marshall Fund conference in Brussels. “We need to think about our allies, the positioning of our forces in the alliance and our readiness of our forces in the alliance, such that we can be there to defend against them if required, especially in the Baltics and other places.”
The focus on the crisis in Ukraine is shifting to whether Russia will seek to claim other parts of the country now its annexation of Crimea is complete. U.S. and European leaders are warning that Russia faces further punishment if it doesn’t defuse the crisis.
U.S. intelligence and military officials say there are now Russian troops along virtually all of the country’s border with Ukraine. Some units have moved within 31 miles (50 kilometers) of the border, said the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss classified intelligence reports.
“With thousands of Russian troops still massed on Ukraine’s borders, there’s a grave risk of the Ukraine crisis deepening,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote in the Sunday Telegraph today. “This is the most serious risk to European security we have seen so far in the 21st century.”
Leaders from the U.S., the European Union, China, Japan and other nations are meeting in The Hague starting tomorrow to discuss the crisis. U.S. President Barack Obama plans to use the gathering to mobilize opposition to Russia’s incursion into Crimea amid sanctions on those held responsible.
The EU on March 21 expanded to 51 individuals its list of Russians and Ukrainians punished with asset freezes and travel bans. The U.S. the previous day widened its list of people targeted to 27 Russian officials and four Ukrainians.
“We have continued to try to make a partner of Russia and now it’s very clear that Russia is acting much more like an adversary than a partner,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Breedlove said.
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