Phil Stewart / Reuters & Steven Beardsley / Stars and Stripes – 2014-03-09 00:39:26
US Halts Military Engagements with Russia in Rebuke over Ukraine
Phil Stewart / Reuters
WASHINGTON, (March 3, 2014) — The United States on Monday suspended all military engagements with Russia, including military exercises and port visits, as Washington sought ways to punish Moscow over its military intervention in Ukraine without escalating the crisis.
The announcement from the Pentagon came hours after President Barack Obama warned the US government will look at a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions that would isolate Moscow. The United States also put trade and investment talks with Russia on hold.
“We call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
The US military does not take such steps lightly and took no such action, for example, last year during turmoil in Egypt that saw the army topple the country’s first freely elected leader. Military-to-military contacts help bridge gaps between nations and reduce chances of misunderstandings, officials say.
“For us to cancel them is a major statement,” said retired Army Brigadier General Kevin Ryan, a former defense attache at the US embassy in Moscow and now director of the Defense and Intelligence Project at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Kirby said that although the Defense Department found “value” in military-to-military relations with Russia, “we have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements.” Its suspension also applied to bilateral military meetings and planning conferences, he said.
Still, the decision does not severe all ties and top-level dialogue could continue, leaving open the possibility of more calls like the one Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had on Saturday with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Hagel warned at the time that Russia’s intervention risked an escalation that could threaten European and international security. One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Shoigu as terse in the call.
Despite an international outcry over actions in Ukraine, Putin has shown little sign of backing down, and Russia has built up armored vehicle presence near Crimea and staged military maneuvers in what appears to be a show of strength.
US officials have dismissed the possibility of military options, which could further escalate the standoff, and the Pentagon appeared at pains to quash any speculation the US armed forces were poised to get involved. “Some media outlets are speculating on possible ship movements in the region. There has been no change to our military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean,” Kirby said.
Kirby added US Navy units were conducting routine, previously planned operations and exercises in the region.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney, Ken Wills and Lisa Shumaker)
(c) Thomson Reuters 2014. All rights reserved.
Naval Exercises Are Among Expected
Casualties of US-Russia Row over Ukraine
Steven Beardsley / Stars and Stripes
NAPLES, Italy (March 3, 2014) — Joint exercises and military cooperation are among the expected casualties of a diplomatic fallout between the US and Russia over recent events in Ukraine, US officials say.
The administration will cancel a “big naval event” as part of planned political and economic measures against Russia after its incursion into the Crimea peninsula in southern Ukraine over the weekend, a senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing on Sunday.
The event is the biannual Northern Eagle exercise, which involves the US, Norway and Russia, according to a military official acquainted with the deliberations. A planning conference for the exercise on April 13 is expected to be canceled, the official said.
Officials are also discussing pulling out of the annual FRUKUS naval exercise between France, Russia, the United Kingdom and US. A midterm planning conference for the exercise is scheduled for April 22-23, the official said, and could be canceled.
Other military-to-military cooperation between the US and Russia may also be suspended, the administration official told reporters.
Defense relations between the US and Russia were strained even before recent events. Russia has repeatedly expressed anger over NATO partnerships with neighboring countries like Ukraine and Georgia, as well as the allianceâ€™s development of a missile defense shield. The US claims the shield is to stop missiles from Iran; Russia insists it is designed to blunt its own missile defense.
The US and NATO have worked with former Soviet nations on defense reforms over the past decade, using programs to destroy outdated equipment, fund professional education for troops, conduct officer exchanges and provide foreign military sales or financing for modern equipment.
Partnering opportunities are run through a working group of a bilateral commission created by the two countries in 2010. Besides high-level discussions on issues such as missile defense and weapons proliferation, the working group has sponsored traditional exchange opportunities, such as a visit last June by Russian engineers to Fort Irwin, Calif., to understand US training on defeating improvised explosive devices.
The US and Russia also share information on counterterrorism and counternarcotics. Before last monthâ€™s Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the US and Russian militaries discussed coordination on preventing improvised explosive devices.
Russia also provides a key transport route to Afghanistan, known as the Northern Distribution Network. NATO has used the route extensively both in bringing supplies to coalition forces in that land-locked nation and for the withdrawal of equipment heading to Europe as part of the pullout of international combat forces.
Northern Eagle, held every two years in the Barents and Norwegian seas, focuses on joint maritime and maneuvers, from anti-piracy operations to air defense. It was first held in 2004 as a bilateral Russian-US exercise but was opened to Norway in 2008.
FRUKUS, held last year in France, was created by the four nations in 2003 to improve interoperability.
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