Agence France-Presse & RIA Novosti & BBC News & USA Today – 2014-09-03 00:37:06
Arming Ukraine Could Lead to Nuclear War: Lech Walesa
KRYNICA, (Poland) (September 2, 2014) — European military assistance to Ukraine could lead to a nuclear conflict between Russia and NATO, according to Poland’s iconic cold warrior and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa.
“It could lead to a nuclear war,” the anti-Communist legend told reporters when asked whether the EU should send weapons to Ukraine to help it fights off separatist rebels and Russian aggression.
“The EU is well aware that Russia has nuclear weapons. NATO has them too. Must we then destroy each other?” said the former Solidarity trade union leader famous for negotiating a bloodless end to communism in Poland in 1989.
“This is why the EU keeps on repeating: stop being silly (…) This is why it isn’t getting involved too much!” he added, at an annual regional economic in Krynica, southern Poland.
The EU on Saturday agreed to impose fresh sanctions on Russia should Moscow failed to change its behaviour in Ukraine, after Kiev said Russian soldiers were fighting along side pro-Moscow rebels.
Up to 1,000 NATO Servicemen to Take Part
In Military Drills in Ukraine This Month
WASHINGTON (September 2, 2014) — Despite the ongoing hostilities in southeastern Ukraine, the United States plans to go ahead with the Rapid Trident military exercise, scheduled to take place in western Ukraine later this month and expected to involve up to 1,000 servicemen from NATO countries and other US allies, Reuters reported Tuesday.
“At the moment, we are still planning for [the exercise] to go ahead,” the agency quoted US Navy Captain Gregory Hicks, a spokesman for the US Army’s European Command, as saying.
The annual exercise was initially scheduled to take place in July, at the Yavoriv training center near Ukraine’s border with Poland, but was put off until September 16-26 due to the Kiev government’s ongoing military operation against independence supporters in southeastern Ukraine.
The operation was launched in mid-April and has left about 2,500 killed and 6,000 injured, according to the latest UN figures.
NATO has been strengthening its military presence in Eastern Europe following the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis in spring. The alliances’ plans on the improvement and modernization of NATO’s response forces have raised concerns in Russia which has criticized NATO’s actions, arguing they lead to greater instability in the region.
Russia ‘To Alter Military Strategy Towards NATO’
BBC World News
(September 2, 2014) — Russia is to alter its military strategy as a result of the Ukraine crisis and NATO’s presence in eastern Europe, a top Russian official says. Mikhail Popov, a Kremlin adviser, said that deteriorating relations with the US and NATO would be reflected in the updated strategy.
NATO said on Monday it would boost its presence in eastern Europe to protect its members. Ukrainian troops are battling pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine. About 2,600 people have died since fighting began in April.
Ukraine’s defence minister on Monday accused Russia of launching a “great war” that could claim tens of thousands of lives – claims dismissed by Russia, which denies actively supporting the rebels.
Mr Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, told Russia’s RIA news agency that “the military infrastructure of NATO member states” was “getting closer to [Russian] borders, including via enlargement.”
NATO’s actions were one of the key “external threats” to Russia, he said. “NATO’s planned action… is evidence of the desire of US and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia”, Mr Popov said. There were no details on how the doctrine might change.
Almost on the eve of NATO’s summit gathering in Wales, the Russian government has signalled that it will respond to NATO’s plans to make preparations to deploy crisis response forces to Eastern Europe, closer to Russia’s borders.
NATO insists that while there will be pre-positioned supplies and more exercises in Poland for example, these will not be permanent new bases. But that is not going to cut much ice in Moscow.
The comments by the top Kremlin security adviser Mikhail Popov has signalled that these new NATO deployments, along with missile defence plans and the Ukraine crisis, will play into a review of Russia’s own defence planning.
Moscow is getting its retaliation in first with the stage set for worsening tensions between Russia and the NATO alliance. There are growing questions now as to just how far the Kremlin is prepared to go in seeking to influence the Ukraine fighting on the ground.
NATO announced its plans on Monday for a rapid response force of several thousand troops to protect eastern European members against possible Russian aggression.
The force, to be made up of troops provided by member states on a rotating basis, would be able to be deployed within 48 hours, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
Military equipment and supplies would be pre-positioned in member states in the east so the force could “travel light, but strike hard if needed”, he added.
Mr Rasmussen insisted that the plans would not breach the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which forbids the presence of permanent bases in eastern and central Europe.
The new measures are set to be approved at a NATO summit in Wales this week.
The NATO security alliance covers 28 member states, including Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic. It does not include Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk has said that he aims to put the country on the path towards NATO membership.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said such efforts were “undermining” attempts to reach a peace deal with the rebels. Crisis talks between Ukraine officials, rebels and Russian envoys ended without agreement on Monday.
Ukraine’s army has been forced to retreat amid a series of gains by pro-Russian rebels in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the port of Mariupol.
Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that 15 servicemen had been killed in the past 24 hours, with another 49 wounded.
On Monday, Ukraine’s army said it had been forced to withdraw from Luhansk airport after it was attacked by Russian tanks.
The acting Luhansk region administration chief Irina Verihina told Ukraine’s 112 TV: “Our troops have withdrawn, but the runway is completely destroyed. There’s no way planes can land there.”
The UN’s refugee agency estimates that at least 260,000 people have been displaced inside the country, with most of those affected from eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, more than 800,000 Ukrainians, mainly ethnic Russians, have arrived in Russia since January this year, bringing the total number of people displaced by the conflict to more than a million, it added.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has accused Russia of “direct, overt aggression against Ukraine.” Russia has repeatedly denied Ukrainian and Western accusations that it is providing troops and equipment to the rebels.
Meanwhile, a Russian official responded to allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin had commented: “If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks.” The reported comments were said to be made in a phone call to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and were reported in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters that whether or not the words were spoken, the quote “was taken out of context and had a totally different meaning.”
Russia’s Strained Relations with NATO
â€¢ 1994 Russia joins NATO’s Partnership for Peace
â€¢ 1996 Russia takes part in NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia
â€¢ 1997 NATO and Russia sign Founding Act respecting territorial integrity of all states
â€¢ 1999 NATO admits Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; then in 2004 admits Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia
â€¢ 1999 Russia and NATO forces in standoff at Pristina airport in Kosovo; Russia earlier angered by NATO air strikes on Serbia
â€¢ 2003 Russia allows German forces through its territory to join NATO-led force in Afghanistan
â€¢ 2007 Russia suspends observance of 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty (CFE) that limits heavy weapons, amid anger at US plans for missile defence system
â€¢ 2008 NATO briefly halts contact over Russia’s war with Georgia
â€¢ 2011 Russia accuses NATO of going beyond UN mandate after air strikes on Gaddafi forces in Libya
â€¢ 2014 NATO accuses Russia of sending troops and tanks into eastern Ukraine; proposes rapid response force
Russia Threatens to Release
Putin’s Disputed Phone Call
(September 2, 2014) — Russia raised the stakes Tuesday over a disputed phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and head of the EU Commission president by threatening to go public with the conversation that the Kremlin said misquoted the Russian leader as saying he could be in Kiev within two weeks if he wanted.
Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, said the Kremlin is prepared to release the full audio and written transcript of the phone call between Putin and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso,
In a letter to Barroso, Chizhov said that media reports “say you allegedly shared the content of the conversation with some of your EU colleagues, in particular attributing to the Russian president words that were clearly taken out of context.”
The Russian president allegedly made the comments during a phone conversation about the Ukraine crisis with Barroso, who reportedly related them to colleagues at last week’s European Union summit.
“If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks,” Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper quoted Putin as saying, implying that this could be the fallout if the EU stepped up sanctions against Russia.
Chizhov said such disclosure of confidential conversations at this level “goes far beyond the bounds of the generally accepted diplomatic practice.”
“I am aware that the administration of the Russian President has both a written and audio recording of the telephone conversation in question and to clarify things is ready to release them if you do not inform [us] of your objections to the release in the next two days,” he wrote, according to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.
Earlier, in Moscow, Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, had also accused Borosso of breaching diplomatic confidentiality and of taking Putin’s words out of context, the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency reports. Putin’s comment reportedly came in response to Barroso pointing out Ukrainian and Western claims that Russia had sharply escalated the conflict in eastern Ukraine by sending regular army units into Ukraine.
NATO has estimated that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers have entered Ukraine, helping turn the tide in favor of pro-Russian insurgents.
Ushakov accused Barroso of violating diplomatic practices to speak publicly about a private conversation. “If that was really done, it looks not worthy of a serious political figure,” Ushakov said. “Irrespective of whether these words were pronounced or not, this quote was taken out of context and had a very different meaning.”
The war of words from Moscow emerged as representatives of Ukraine, Russia, pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are holding talks in Minsk, the Belarus capital, to try to resolve the festering Ukraine crisis.
The talks on Monday lasted several hours and were adjourned until Friday, when the parties are expected to discuss specifics of a possible cease-fire and a prisoner exchange.
In Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday urged the United States to use its influence in Ukraine to encourage efforts to reach a political settlement. “It’s necessary to restrain the party of war in Kiev, and only the United States can do it,” he said at a briefing.
Lavrov also said that “compromise” is the only way to resolve the crisis and accused the West of supporting Kiev and undermining the peace process.
The Ukraine crisis will be high on the agenda for President Obama, who was scheduled to leave Tuesday for a four-day European trip meant to reassure NATO allies and send a stern message to Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
Obama will also attend a NATO summit in Wales on Thursday that will include Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sunday in Brussels that the alliance will create a Readiness Action Plan in response to “Russia’s aggressive behavior.”
“We already have a NATO Response Force. This is a multinational force, which brings together land, air, maritime and special operation forces,” Rasmussen said. “It can be deployed anywhere in the world, for collective defense or crisis management.”
Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists have been battling since mid-April in eastern Ukraine, with rebels claiming independence for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. More than 2,500 have died in the fighting.
In the latest clashes, rebels have opened up a new front in the war with an offensive along the coast of the Sea of Azov. Ukraine has charged that Russian military equipment and troops crossed the border last week to bolster the offensive.
Russia has denied sending any soldiers or equipment to the rebels, although rebels have acknowledged that fighters include Russian “volunteers” and some Russian soldiers on home leave.
Contributing: Associated Press
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