(Adds quotes, background)
BRUSSELS, March 23 NATO's top military commander
said on Sunday that Russia had a large force on Ukraine's
eastern border and said he was worried it could pose a threat to
Moldova's mainly Russian-speaking separatist Transdniestria
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force
General Philip Breedlove, voiced concern about Moscow using a
tactic of snap military exercises to prepare its forces for
possible rapid incursions into a neighbouring state, as it had
done in the case of Ukraine's Crimea region.
Russia launched a new military exercise, involving 8,500
artillery men, near Ukraine's border 10 days ago.
"The (Russian) force that is at the Ukrainian border now to
the east is very, very sizeable and very, very ready," Breedlove
told an event held by the German Marshall Fund think-tank.
The president of ex-Soviet Moldova warned Russia last
Tuesday against considering any move to annex Transdniestria,
which lies on Ukraine's western border, in the same way that it
has taken control of Crimea.
The speaker of Transdniestria's separatist parliament had
urged Russia earlier to incorporate his mainly Russian-speaking
Transdniestria split away from Moldova in 1990, one year
before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, amid fears that
Moldova would shortly merge with neighbouring Romania, whose
language and culture it broadly shares.
Breedlove said NATO was very concerned about the threat to
Transdniestria, which he said, in Russia's view, was the "next
place where Russian-speaking people may need to be
"There is absolutely sufficient (Russian) force postured on
the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transdniestria if the
decision was made to do that and that is very worrisome."
NATO had tried to make Russia a partner but "now it is very
clear that Russia is acting much more like an adversary than a
partner," he said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Rosalind Russell)