The Alliance seeks to stabilise the situation, reassure Ukraine and allies.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 13/03/14
A US Air Force F-15C Eagle is seen at the airfield near Siauliai Zuokiniai, Lithuania, on March 6th. The US sent six additional F-15 fighter jets to step up NATO's air patrols over the Baltic states, plus 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland to augment forces there, the AP reported. [AFP]
NATO is committed to assisting Ukraine in managing its on-going crisis in Crimea, implementing democratic principles and maintaining peace and stability in the region.
"In response to the current crisis, the Alliance will step up its partnership co-operation through the NATO-Ukraine commission to support democratic reforms," Jay Janzen, chief of media operations at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in NATO, told SETimes.
Janzen said the Alliance will bolster ties with Ukraine's political and military leadership, strengthen efforts to build the country's military capacity and organise additional joint military training. It will also include Ukraine in its multi-national projects aimed at developing military capabilities, he said.
Ukrainian officials on Wednesday (March 12th) accused Russia of a large military build-up on the border that raises the spectre of invasion, but Russian officials denied it, The Associated Press reported. President Vladimir Putin has promised that Moscow will "use all means" to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, and the Russian parliament has given Putin permission to use the Russian military in Ukraine.
NATO this week agreed to deploy airborne early warning and control aircraft (AWACS) in Poland and Romania to monitor the situation in Ukraine and the region, including 12 F-16 fighter jets being sent by the US to Poland to augment the air force detachment there, the AP reported.
Concurrently, NATO member and partner states are conducting previously planned military exercises.
The Romanian, Bulgarian and US navies engaged in a joint training exercise in the Black Sea this week to increase the operational compatibility between NATO naval units and enhance the crews' readiness.
"NATO stands by the right of every nation to decide its own future. NATO stands by Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and by the fundamental principles of international law," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary general.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Alliance stands by Ukraine. [AFP]
Experts said NATO activities are crucial to stabilising the situation and implementing democratic reforms in Ukraine.
NATO's primary role in defusing the Ukrainian crisis is deterrence, which is why naval and air drills are organised in various parts of Europe, said Oana Popescu, foreign affairs analyst and founder of the Global Focus Centre in Bucharest.
"This is a show of force which, along with sanctions and political pressure on Russia, are meant to show Moscow it is alone on the barricades. Everything is done at this point to avoid an escalation of the crisis and a direct conflict," Popescu told SETimes.
The steps NATO is undertaking seek to convey a bold and firm message to Putin that his actions are illegitimate, said Donika Capi, former director of civil-military relations at SHAPE.
"Secretary Rasmussen was very clear: There will be no changes in the map of Europe in the 21st century. These efforts are also a strong message to Ukraine that NATO is certain to reassure its territorial integrity," Capi told SETimes.
NATO is a geopolitical force with the military capacity to respond to the Ukraine crisis, but its actions are undertaken to assist Ukraine, calm the situation and resolve this issue by political means, said Denis Hadzovic, director of Centre for Security Studies in Sarajevo.
"This is a good approach," Hadzovic told SETimes. "A dialogue in this crisis is most important in order to avoid that what happened to Yugoslavia."
NATO decided to deploy AWACS aircraft in Poland and Romania but simultaneously the US also increased air force strength in Poland and the Baltic countries, said Nano Ruzin, former Macedonian ambassador to NATO.
"The presence of frightening military might is making Moscow, Washington and NATO look for a diplomatic solution of this crisis," Ruzin told SETimes.
Correspondents Drazen Remikovic in Sarajevo, Lindita Komani in Tirana, Marina Stojanovska in Skopje and Paul Ciocoiu in Bucharest contributed to this report.
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