NATO suspends cooperation with Russia over Ukraine threat

posted at 8:01 am on April 2, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Russia has insisted that it has no designs on eastern Ukraine, and that its troops massing on the border are for Russian security only and would be recalled. They’re still poised on the border, however, and NATO has finally taken its first steps to recognize the new paradigm in eastern Europe. Yesterday, the alliance suspended all of its outreach programs to Russia, military and civilian, warning Moscow that its aggression meant an end to “business as usual”:

NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia on Tuesday in protest at its annexation of Crimea, and ordered military planners to draft measures to strengthen its defenses and reassure nervous Eastern European countries.

Foreign ministers from the 28-nation, U.S.-led alliance were meeting for the first time since the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea region touched off the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russia’s actions meant there could be no “business as usual”.

“So today, we are suspending all practical cooperation with Russia, military and civilian,” he told a news conference.

Instead, NATO has now begun to look at measures to strengthen its eastern frontiers. That would put the focus on the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary, and perhaps even Bulgaria as a Black Sea defense. Finland might eventually be another point of concern, although it doesn’t belong to NATO. At least, Finland isn’t a member state yet, but Russia is giving them reason to think about it:

Russian military drills near neighboring Finland have provoked concern that northern Europe may be the next focus of Moscow’s seemingly renewed appetite for redrawing its borders.

Troops and jet fighters from all four military regions of Russia were deployed Sunday about 150 miles east of the Finnish border, according to the English-language newspaper Finnbay. The Russian defense ministry said in a statement that the exercises were pre-planned and that more than 50 fighter pilots took part.

Finland was part of the Russian empire for 108 years, from 1809 until Russia’s withdrawal from World War I in 1917. The Karelia region, where the war games are taking place, straddles the Finnish border and has historically been a heavily militarized zone for Moscow.

But experts say that while Moscow appears to have seized another opportunity to flex its muscles, the threat of an armed invasion is very low.

Tell that to the Finns, who are less sanguine about their national security these days. If Putin is out to reconstruct the Russian empire, then Finland has to feel at least a little nervous — and these military drills seem designed to send a message. That would be the same message that Putin sent with military drills just before seizing Crimea from Ukraine.

The West finally seems to be waking up to the threat from Putin. They may still be able to harden their eastern frontier, but they’d better be prepared to harden their resolve on economic sanctions first. Moving tanks, planes, and troops is relatively simple, but getting natural gas and energy isn’t — unless Europe starts producing more of its own. This new Cold War may get very literal next winter.


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Um, shouldn’t this have been a GIVEN the moment tanks rolled into Crimea?

NATO and Obama’s failure to live up to our 1994 treaty with Ukraine is a turning point in history: NO ONE will ever give up nukes again. And every nation will soon have them.

ConstantineXI on April 2, 2014 at 8:04 AM

NATO is the textbook definition of a paper tiger. There is no way that France or Germany will shed blood over the Ukraine, or even Poland, especially with president lead-from-behind in charge. Putin has a chance now to break NATO. Do not assume that he will let it pass.

fastphil101 on April 2, 2014 at 8:07 AM

NATO is the textbook definition of a paper tiger. There is no way that France or Germany will shed blood over the Ukraine, or even Poland, especially with president lead-from-behind in charge. Putin has a chance now to break NATO. Do not assume that he will let it pass.
fastphil101 on April 2, 2014 at 8:07 AM

At this point NATO should be disbanded. It’s a waste of money.

ConstantineXI on April 2, 2014 at 8:10 AM

NATO and Obama’s failure to live up to our 1994 treaty with Ukraine is a turning point in history: NO ONE will ever give up nukes again. And every nation will soon have them.

ConstantineXI on April 2, 2014 at 8:04 AM

That wasn’t a treaty. And Ukraine never really had nukes to give up. It had nukes on its soil that were guarded by Russians and could not be armed without PAL codes that were back in Moscow. If Ukraine had ever seized the nukes, Russia would have responded with an invasion or pre-emptive strike on the silos, long before Ukraine could have cracked the PAL codes, which would have taken months at least. The reason Ukraine agreed to return the nukes to Russia is that they knew they were useless.

Jon0815 on April 2, 2014 at 8:17 AM

NATO = joke

KOOLAID2 on April 2, 2014 at 8:20 AM

At this point NATO should be disbanded. It’s a waste of money.

ConstantineXI on April 2, 2014 at 8:10 AM

NATO should have been disbanded 20 years ago along with the Warsaw pact, and it’s worse than a waste of money: Russian resentment of NATO’s aggressive expansion up to their border, and bombing of Russia’s historic ally Serbia, are a big part of the reason that Putin’s regime is in power.

Jon0815 on April 2, 2014 at 8:20 AM

psst, remember those missiles we promised Poland and didn’t follow through on? And by didn’t follow though on I mean, lied about?

Uh-huh!

hawkdriver on April 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM

I was less worried about a US-Russia war in the 1970s and 1980s. Under the allegedly “scary” Ronald Reagan and the weak and ineffectual Jimmy Carter.

Heckuva flexibility, Barry.

rbj on April 2, 2014 at 8:35 AM

Invade Russia! Do it for Visa, MasterCard, and the Multicultural Rainbow.

vlad martel on April 2, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Short Hairs.

Bmore on April 2, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Ooooh! Double secret probation. NATO is a paper tiger awaiting its Origami fate. With Germany sucking Russia’s gaseous teet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another German-Russian ‘Non-Aggression Pact’. Goombye, Poland…

vnvet on April 2, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Does anyone remember the Simpsons episode back in the late 90s where Homer mistakenly steered a nuclear sub towards Russia and the Russians revealed that they, in fact, never disbanded. It was when their jokes were still somewhat decent. Quite prophetic.

studentofhistory on April 2, 2014 at 9:46 AM

Meant to finish that sentence with “never disbanded the Soviet Union”.

studentofhistory on April 2, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Good decision by NATO.

By the way, the organization is far stronger than some of you think and completely dwarfs Russia. I participated in the POMOR excerise a few years ago and have seen the Russian capability up close, not impressed.

Even when completely excluding the US, the remaining NATO member states have military budgets more than triple that of Russia, with far more military hardware. Including the US, it is over 10x larger.

Norwegian on April 2, 2014 at 2:24 PM

The pro-Russia, anti-NATO kooks are out to assassinate reality as usual. I wonder how many are part Russia’s paid internet commenting army. They seem to have forgotten that NATO is a totally voluntary defensive organization that has zero chance of ever invading Russia EVER unless PUTIN goes ape$it crazy and attacks a NATO member. It would be bad for business in the EU and the United States if it ever comes down to that and business is really why we do most of what we do.

NATO expanded to the Baltic countries and into the former Warsaw pact for the same reason we still have troops in Japan and South Korea. Because 1) stability is good for business and 2) certain regional powers have spent generations scaring the crap out of their neighbors. NATO and our other defensive constructs will exist so long as those two conditions continue.

Russia in particular has paranoid delusions and that is in large part at root here. I think the pro-Russian commenters need to get their stories straight. Either NATO is a worthless ‘paper tiger’ or it is the big super scary monster that is out to get Russia. One or the other folks!

Dawnsblood on April 3, 2014 at 12:08 AM