(Adds remarks on effect of U.S. drawdown in Europe; French sale
By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA May 6 NATO will have to consider
permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern Europe as a
result of the increased tension between Russia and Ukraine, the
alliance's top military commander said on Tuesday.
NATO has arranged a number of short-term army, air force and
naval rotations in Eastern Europe, including the Baltic
republics, Poland and Romania, but these are due to finish at
the end of this year.
Asked whether NATO might have to look at permanently
stationing troops in the alliance's member states in Eastern
Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said: "I think
this is something we have to consider and we will tee this up
for discussion through the leaderships of our nations to see
where that leads."
NATO leaders are due to hold a summit in Wales in early
In the run-up to the summit, NATO commanders, defense
ministers and foreign ministers would look at "tougher
questions" about whether the alliance had the right footprint in
Europe, Breedlove told a news conference in Ottawa.
"We need to look at our responsiveness, our readiness and
then our positioning of forces to be able to address this new
paradigm that we have seen demonstrated in Crimea and now on the
eastern border of Ukraine," he said.
Breedlove, who said on Monday he did not think Moscow would
send troops into eastern Ukraine, stressed the steps that NATO
had taken so far were designed to support eastern members of the
"We are taking measures that should be very easily discerned
as being defensive in nature. This is about assuring our allies,
not provoking Russia, and we are communicating that at every
level," he said.
Breedlove insisted the so-called U.S. strategic "pivot"
toward Asia would have no effect on its commitment to NATO and
collective defense, though he acknowledged that U.S. troop
levels in Europe have been reduced by about three-quarters from
Cold War levels.
Asked if the U.S. troop levels would be enough in light of
the Russian moves, he said: "In our own country now, and I think
in every other NATO nation, based on the paradigm that we see
that Russia has presented in Crimea and on the border of Ukraine
... we are all going to have to reevaluate some of the decisions
that have been made (after the end of the Cold War)."
Breedlove declined to say whether he thought that France
should scrap the sale of two Mistral helicopter-carrier frigates
to Russia, saying this was "a national decision" that was up to
France. Moscow has said it would demand compensation if this
(Editing by Chris Reese and G Crosse)