Nato general warns about Moldova, Baltics
Nato’s top general, Philip Breedlove, has warned that Russia has amassed enough troops on the eastern Ukrainian border for a new invasion and said Nato will mobilise troops to defend the Baltics if need be.
"The force that is now at the Ukrainian border - to the east - is very, very sizeable and very, very ready. You cannot defend against that if you are not there to defend against it. So I think we need to think about our allies, the positioning of our forces in the alliance and the readiness of the forces so we can be there to defend against it if required, especially in the Baltics," he said on Sunday (23 March) at the Brussels Forum, an event organised by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank.
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He noted that Russia could no longer be trusted to respect national borders when it carries out military exercises.
"We saw several snap exercises executed in which large formations of forces were brought to readiness and exercised and then they stood down. And then as we have all seen, a snap exercise with large formations brought into readiness and boom, into Crimea, they went, with a highly prepared force," Breedlove said.
He also warned the current number of troops amassed along the eastern Ukrainian border may pose a threat for Moldova and its separatist region of Transniestria, which last week requested to be incorporated into Russia on the Crimean model.
"There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transnistria if the decision was made to do that and that's very worrisome,” he said
"When we talk about threat in the military, we marry capability with intent. We know the capability absolutely exists to do that and cause that problem. We see some of the same rhetoric used before going into Crimea so if that's the first indication of intent, that's very worrisome," he added.
What Nato states may consider doing is to move troops and hold war games closer to Russia, the general indicated.
He noted that the military alliance already moved fighter jets from Italy and the UK to Poland and the Baltic states and moved some of its warships into the Black Sea.
Breedlove said Nato has been trying to partner with Russia, but Moscow is now "behaving like an adversary."
His last contact with his Russian counterpart, general Valery Gerasimov, was on the day after the invasion of Crimea began.
"I will try to maintain that line of communication, we will insist from each other truth in what we speak. Sometimes we don't see truth in the same way," he said.
In Moscow, deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia is in compliance with international law on troop limits and said international inspectors had conducted missions in the last month to check on Russian troop movements.
"We have nothing to hide there," Antonov was quoted by state news agencies as saying.