President Obama sits with (from left) France’s President Francois Hollande; Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko; British Prime Minister David Cameron; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi as they meet about Ukraine at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales, on Thursday. Charles Dharapak/AP
President Obama, along with all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are in Wales today as a set of international conflicts puts the military alliance back in the spotlight.
On the top of the agenda is, of course, the crisis in Ukraine.
In an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, said the allied forces are facing a situation they never thought they would see again in the region.
“A nation has massed military force on a border, a recognized border, it crossed that internationally recognized border, and annexed at the point of a gun a portion of another sovereign nation,” Breedlove said. “We thought that kind of thing was over in Europe, and so NATO now has to consider what does this mean.”
Don Gonyea, who is guest-hosting Morning Edition, asked Breedlove if that meant NATO was ready to begin providing Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles.
Breedlove said he would not get out in front of his bosses, but, he said, “many nations are looking at bilateral aid, both lethal and nonlethal.”
Breedlove added that the sanctions imposed by European countries and the U.S. have been “fairly important” and those countries “will begin to take even more strident measures, if we continue to see overt Russian business being done inside the sovereign Ukraine nation.”
Breedlove’s tough rhetoric comes a day after President Obama delivered a speech in which he reiterated that NATO will back any member nation’s sovereignty with the full force of the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, Russia warned Ukraine against joining NATO.
NBC News reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said attempts to do so could “derail all efforts aimed at initiating a dialogue with the aim of ensuring national security.”
“Some of our Western partners, including unfortunately the most influential players — the United States — want victory for NATO and a situation where America dictates its will to everyone,” Lavrov said.
Quoting NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, The Wall Street Journal adds:
“The two-day summit is also expected to discuss the ending this year of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan. That is expected to transition next year into a training mission — but the U.S. and NATO are awaiting signature of agreements with the Afghan government that would provide a legal basis for foreign troops to stay in the country. He said time was running short for the accords to be signed.
“Leaders will also discuss the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. Mr. Rasmussen welcomed efforts of the U.S. and other countries to push the group back. Asked about NATO involvement in Iraq, he said NATO had not received the necessary request from the Iraqi government. If such a request came, he said it would be ‘seriously considered’ by allies.
“The leaders are expected to agree on a so-called Readiness Action Plan, to develop a NATO force of several thousand troops able to respond within two days to a crisis. Mr. Rasmussen said NATO would also ‘turn the corner and reverse the trend of declining military spending.’ “