Civilians Flee Ukraine's Armed Onslaught as US, UK, NATO Threaten Russia
June 5, 2014
AntiWar.com & Agence France-Presse
Reports of fighting yesterday in Slovyansk have continued to grow, with reports that the Ukrainian ground troops that invaded the city are escalating their offensive, and civilians are fleeing en masse. Kiev officials reported all the slain as "pro-Russian militants," with no indications of what the civilian toll in such enormous violence in an urban area would have to be.
Ukraine Military Claims to Kill Over 300 in Slovyansk
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 4, 2014) -- Reports of fighting yesterday in Slovyansk have continued to grow, with reports that the Ukrainian ground troops that invaded the city are escalating their offensive, and civilians are fleeing en masse.
Ukraine's military has claimed "more than 300″ rebels were killed and at least 500 others wounded in and around Slovyansk in the last 24 hours, a figure that seems dramatically higher than anything supported by rebel comments.
Bizarrely, though battles raged throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday, the military's claim of enormous rebel deaths did not come with any new reports of casualties on their own side, which as of yesterday amounted to two killed and a few dozen wounded. Likewise, they reported all the slain as "pro-Russian militants," with no indications of what the civilian toll in such enormous violence in an urban area would have to be.
Slovyansk and neighboring Kramatorsk are the first major cities on the border between the separatist-held portion of Ukraine and the cities held by the central government, and are on a major highway linking government-held Kharkiv with the eastern oblasts. Several previous offensives against the cities failed, but this time the reports are of much more serious fighting.
NATO Announces New East Europe Buildup Aimed at Russia
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 3, 2014) -- Months after NATO officials started predicting the "imminent" Russian invasion of Ukraine and potentially the whole of Eastern Europe, nothing has happened on the ground. The rhetoric, however, remains very active, as do NATO's plans for a military buildup across the region, explicitly aimed at Russia.
Today, NATO defense ministers announced a "readiness action plan" aimed at building up the militaries of NATO members in the east, as well as "speeding up reaction time" of Western nations to a war with Russia.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted the move was necessary because of Russia's increase in military spending over the past five years, though Russia's entire military budget is less than 10 percent that of NATO.
And while Russian troops may not be rolling through the verdant fields of Central Europe any time soon, NATO did at the very least manage to kick off a diplomatic row with their planned escalation, leading Russia's NATO Ambassador to warn it was a violation of the 1997 treaty of cooperation between NATO and Russia.
NATO Agrees to 'Readiness Action Plan' to Counter Russia
BRUSSELS (June 3, 2014) -- NATO defence ministers agreed Tuesday series of steps to bolster protection in Eastern Europe after the Ukraine crisis, but insisted they were acting within the limits of a key post-Cold War treaty with Moscow.
NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ministers had agreed to develop a "readiness action plan… to respond to the changed security environment" created by the escalating conflict in Ukraine.
This will include measures such as pre-positioning supplies and equipment in member states and stepping up work to improve military capabilities to help NATO speed up its reaction time to any threat.
The plan will go to NATO leaders at their September summit in Britain for approval.
The decision comes after Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine has plunged East-West relations to their worst point since the end of the Cold War.
Russia's intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea mean it "is in blatant breach of the 1997 Founding Act," Rasmussen said. The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act formalised post-Cold War borders in Europe and crucially said neither the West, led by the United States, nor Russia would deploy forces or arms in the newly-freed east European countries in a threatening manner.
Both sides also agreed that neither should treat the other as an "adversary," aiming to reduce the risk of future conflict.
Russia's ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grush, said Monday that NATO'S temporary deployment of additional alliance planes and troops in member states such as Poland and the Baltic countries amounted to a breach of the treaty.
Some NATO member states, especially in central and eastern Europe, have expressed concern and surprise at Russia's ability to mass 40,000 troops on the border with Ukraine very quickly and keep them there, ready for action, for some time.
Rasmussen said NATO had to take necessary measures for "as long as necessary" to counter a new threat.
He pointed out that Russia had increased defence spending by 50 percent over the last five years, while the allies have cut theirs by a fifth.
In this vein, he warmly welcomed President Barack Obama's announcement of a $1 billion US security plan for eastern Europe aimed at reassuring NATO allies and friends, who have been increasingly concerned by Russian actions.
Still, NATO and the West will stick with the treaty because they "want a rules-based security system" and "believe all the measures we are prepared to take can be taken within the existing" rules, Rasmussen said.
While taking a hard line on Moscow, he also rejected suggestions that the Ukraine crisis had sparked a new Cold War, saying there the deep ideological and global divide created by the conflict, which lasted nearly 50 years, had dissolved.
Russia now seems "quite isolated," he said, but its more "assertive attitude... reminds of the old-fashioned Cold-War thinking."
Britain Offers 1,000 Troops, 25 Tanks in ‘Show of Force' Against Russia
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 4, 2014) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed his government has offered an armored battle group to be sent to Poland later this year as part of a massive planned "show of force" against Russia.
The armored battle group would include some 1,000 soldiers, along with 25 tanks and 40 armored fighting vehicles. Britain's Defense Ministry presented it as part of an effort to "re-assure our NATO Baltic allies."
The Poland exercise appears to be part of NATO's announced "readiness action plan," which aims to build up military forces in Eastern Europe, and to speed reaction time of Western European nations to a war with Russia.
There's no indication that an actual war with Russia is likely anymore, though hawkish rhetoric from months ago surrounding the Crimean referendum and its subsequent Russian annexation has many military leaders in NATO salivating at the idea of a "new Cold War," with the same run-away military spending as the last one.