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NATO alert to Russia's hunt for military weakness

Monday, July 24, 2017 - 02:02

The career of Sergei Yeliseyev helps to explain why Ukraine's armed forces gave up Crimea almost without a fight - and why NATO now says it is alert to Russian attempts to undermine military loyalty in its eastern European members. Scarlett Cvitanovich reports.

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Why did Ukrainian forces give up Crimea without a fight in 2014? And how does it relate to why NATO is alert to Russia's actions now in eastern Europe. The career of Sergei Yeliseyev helps to explain both. He was number two in the Ukrainian navy when Russia seized Crimea. Only to defect when put to the test. He was awarded a new job for it: deputy chief of Russia's Baltic Fleet. It didn't come as a surprise to those who once served alongside him. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) COMMANDER OF THE UKRAINIAN NAVY, ADMIRAL IHOR VORONCHENKO, SAYING: "When he took an oath of allegiance to Ukraine these were empty words for him. He was always pro-Russian." It illustrates the divided loyalties that some personnel in countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union might still face. Yeliseyev was just one of many to defect, and almost all Ukrainian forces in Crimea failed to resist. Russia's tactics weren't the only reason. Ukraine's military had suffered years of neglect, there was a power vacuum in Kiev and many Crimean residents felt more affinity with Moscow. But Russia worked hard to undermine military loyalty sources told Reuters, exploiting weaknesses and making attractive offers (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) COMMANDER OF THE UKRAINIAN NAVY, ADMIRAL IHOR VORONCHENKO, SAYING: "Posts, an apartment. They offered me to stay in Simferopol if I wanted. Aksyonov offered to make me defense minister of Crimea." The Russian defense ministry didn't respond to questions on their account of events. But now NATO military planners believe it's looking to re-use the tactics. One commander told Reuters, Moscow intelligence is trying to recruit ethnic Russians in the militaries of countries on its borders. The Baltic states are thought to be particularly at risk. Officials there are playing it down. But if a new confrontation should break out with the West - these people could prove valuable. And NATO is being advised to keep guard.

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NATO alert to Russia's hunt for military weakness

Monday, July 24, 2017 - 02:02