NATO commander plays down tension with Russia over Ukraine

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:25pm EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO's top military commander played down tension with Russia over Ukraine on Thursday, saying the Western military alliance had made no plans to respond to any Russian intervention in Crimea and appealing for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered 150,000 troops on Wednesday to be ready for war games near the border of the former Soviet republic once ruled from Moscow after pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was toppled by protests over his rejection of closer ties with the European Union.

In addition, an armed group seized government buildings in Ukraine's ethnic Russian-majority region of Crimea on Thursday and raised the Russian flag.

"There just isn't any reason for us and Russia to compete over the future of Ukraine. I think that we both want the same thing which is a prosperous, stable, peaceful Ukraine," U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said in an interview with Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

"What we need to do now is just, in a calm way, work this out so that we understand what Russia is doing and how that affects other people in the region," said Breedlove, who is NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. forces in Europe.

Asked if he was concerned about the possibility of a Russian military intervention in Crimea, Breedlove said: "I think everybody might be concerned about that but right now that is not my primary concern."

The occupation of the buildings in Simferopol, Crimea was "a troubling situation", Breedlove said, adding: "We, like all the nations of NATO, want to see a peaceful resolution to all of the turmoil in Ukraine."

NO CONTINGENCY PLANS

Breedlove said neither the United States nor the 28-nation Western alliance had drawn up contingency plans for how to respond if Russian forces did move militarily in Crimea.

"Right now we are not planning contingencies on how to respond here. What we are doing is supporting the peaceful resolution of this business," Breedlove said.

NATO had also not moved military equipment due to tensions over Ukraine, he said. "No, no, we have taken no actions to this moment. We are doing what everyone else is doing which is monitoring. We are trying to get to a full understanding of exactly what has transpired," Breedlove said.

The United States sent two Navy ships to patrol the Black Sea during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia that ended on February 23.

Breedlove said one of these, the USS Mount Whitney, flagship for the Europe-headquartered U.S. Sixth Fleet, had left the Black Sea while the second ship, the USS Taylor, was in port in Turkey, and there were no plans to change their deployment.

Breedlove said the Russian "snap exercise" seemed to be one of a series of exercises that has been a new, but not unknown, feature of Russian strategy over the last couple of years.

Moscow had informed NATO it would conduct the exercise, he said. "We are watching that as it unfolds now."

Breedlove said he had "open and constant contact" with both General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia's armed forces, and with the new head of Ukraine's armed forces general staff, Admiral Yury Ilyin.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (6)
s3b0 wrote:
hahahaha, what a joke! In 2014 but they still talk to you like its 1950. This propaganda war is really testing my patience and its come to a point where the hypocrisy is just downright insulting. You really expect us to believe that they backed up illegally overthrowing a government while not at all thinking about the consequences? The point was to lure Moscow into this drama in the first place. The West threw the first stone, but are now warning Russia for throwing one back? Give me a break people. This is becoming an international blunder of epic proportions, because they can hide certain news in the West, but in this day and age people can use the internet to get the views from all sides. Take a tour of all news available and then make your conclusions, please remember that back in 1950 there were over 3000 independent news agencies giving a more balanced view of world events, today there are only 11, all owned by corporations with connections to certain political views. I truly hope the West will not get away with supporting the extreme right, it is an utter disgrace!

Feb 27, 2014 10:25am EST  --  Report as abuse
jewdog wrote:
yeah because you know the same thing will happen to you like it did in ossetia 2008 kusayr, Syria 2013 , and sothern lebanon hezbollah 2006 you will get your sorry a(Z)Z(Z) handed to you once again
SPASEBA PUTIN

Feb 27, 2014 1:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
disengage wrote:
There is no tensions between the west and Putinism…Ask Obama and Kerry. They trumpet such at every opportunity. Yet the Putin tanks are at the Ukrainian borders. The Putin govt, lies to us all about doing what they agreed to do in Syria. The Putin govt, is sweeping up anyone that is in opposition to his policies. Yes, this is the soviets of the 1950′s, under a new name. PUTINISM.. Too bad, we don’t have the reporters and newspaper editors of those 1950 times. Fair and unbalanced news, is pretty hard to find these days. But you don’t need huge headlines, to not see PUTINISM on the move. Obama, Nato, Kerry, EU..are just just plain bull….!

Feb 27, 2014 3:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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