Thursday

27th Apr 2017

Nato chief: Crimea invasion could be just the beginning

  • Rasmussen: 'our major concern now is whether he [Putin] will go beyond Crimea' (Photo: nato.int)

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has warned Crimea could be the beginning of a wider military campaign, amid Russia's veiled threats against EU and Nato member Estonia.

He told the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, on Wednesday (19 March): “I see Crimea as an element in a greater pattern, in a more long-term Russian, or at least [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin, strategy. So of course our major concern now is whether he will go beyond Crimea."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He added: “This crisis is not just about Ukraine. We see what could be called ‘21st century revisionism’: Attempts to turn back the clock; to draw new dividing lines on the map; to monopolise markets; shuffle populations.”

He urged Nato members to increase defence spending.

He pledged “further steps to reassure [Nato] allies” and to “step up assistance to Ukraine.”

But as EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday amid disagreement on whether to impose economic sanctions on Russia, he admitted the West is struggling to respond.

“There are no quick and easy ways to stand up to global bullies. Because our democracies debate, deliberate, and consider the options before taking decisions. Because we value transparency and seek legitimacy for our choices, and because we see force as the last, not the first, resort,” Rasmussen noted.

For his part, US President Barack Obama, the same day said on TV there is no question of using military means.

"We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine … There is a better path, but I think even the Ukrainians would acknowledge that for us to engage Russia militarily would not be appropriate and would not be good for Ukraine either," he told the NBC broadcaster.

With Russia massing forces on Ukraine’s borders, the immediate concern is that Russia will invade other Ukrainian regions.

But remarks by a Russian diplomat at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday contained a veiled threat to go further.

Russia invaded and annexed Crimea on the pretext of protecting the ethnic Russian majority in the Ukrainian region.

It has long complained that ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia are also mistreated. But the Russian diplomat on Wednesday linked the situation in the Baltic states to what Russia is doing in Ukraine.

According to minutes of the meeting seen by Reuters, he noted that “language should not be used to segregate and isolate groups,” adding that Moscow is "concerned by steps taken in this regard in Estonia as well as in Ukraine.”

The Russian diplomat denied that the rights of minorities in Crimea are being abused.

But EU diplomats paint a different picture.

Jan Tombinski, the EU’s ambassador in Kiev, has called for an investigation into the “shameful” murder of Reshat Ametov, a 39-year-old Crimean Tatar activist, whose body was found on Sunday.

He noted that one Ukrainian soldier was shot dead by pro-Russian paramilitaries. He also called for the release of 10 Ukrainian activists and of “several servicemen from the Ukrainian military” who have been “kidnapped” in Crimea.

Putin claims 95 percent of Russian people support his actions.

But he has tightened restrictions on critics, such as opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was put under house arrest and cut off from the internet shortly before the invasion.

Navalny, in a text smuggled out of his house and published in The New York Times on Wednesday, noted that 50,000 people protested against Putin’s military adventure in Moscow last weekend in the largest such event in recent times.

He said EU and US visa bans on some Russian officials and MPs are “mocked in Russia and even seen as a tacit encouragement to Mr Putin and his entourage.”

He urged the West to blacklist Putin’s oligarch allies instead, in what he called “the Kremlin mafia,” naming eight men: Gennady Timchenko; Arkady and Boris Rotenberg; Yuri Kovalchuk; Vladimir Yakunin; Roma Abramovich; Alisher Usmanov; Igor Sechin; and Alexey Miller.

He described Kovalchuk, a financier, as “Mr Putin’s banker.”

He said the EU and US should also launch money-laundering investigations into their foreign assets.

He noted that his NGO, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, has since 2011”revealed dozens of major cases of graft.”

But he added: “In 90 percent of those cases, Russian money was laundered in the West. Sadly, American, European Union and British law enforcement agencies have [so far] stymied our efforts to investigate such criminal plunder.”

Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU

Beijing special envoy on the Syrian conflict said in Brussels that "imposing" a solution from the outside would "not be workable" and that the peace process will not be "smooth sailing".

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament moves to lift Le Pen's immunity
  2. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's university law
  3. Scots slowly losing appetite for independence - poll
  4. Council of Europe puts Turkey on watch list
  5. EU to put parental leave on political agenda
  6. Israel cancels German meeting over human rights groups
  7. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  8. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  2. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  3. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts
  4. European states still top media freedom list
  5. Let’s not put European public health at risk
  6. Threatened Budapest university calls for EU support
  7. Orban set to face down EU threats
  8. Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  2. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  3. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  6. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  7. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  8. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  9. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  11. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  12. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal