Saturday, May 28

NATO tightens eastern borders as tensions rise in Ukraine | Ukraine


NATO is reinforcing its eastern borders with warships and fighter jets, and the US is considering deploying thousands more troops to the region, as fears grow of a possible “blitzkrieg” attack by Russia to seize the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman, along with its strike group and air wing, joined patrolling activities in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, the first time since the Cold War that an entire US carrier group is under command. of NATO.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is reported that he was deciding on which units to send to Eastern Europe if the crisis continues to escalate, with the goal of demonstrating resolve and being available to help get American citizens out of the region.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said the “deteriorating security situation” had prompted the military alliance to step up its “collective defence”.

Denmark will send a frigate to the Baltic Sea and four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania. Spain has said it is sending ships to join NATO naval forces and is considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria. Emmanuel Macron has expressed his government’s readiness to send French troops to Romania under NATO command.

“I welcome allies contributing additional forces to NATO,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including strengthening the eastern part of the alliance. We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defense.”

After meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her Finnish and Swedish counterparts, Stoltenberg said NATO was also considering the “deployment of additional NATO battle groups” to complement the four being they deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland after Russia’s annexation. of Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin pointed to the new deployments as evidence of NATO’s aggressive stance, and blamed NATO for the heightened tensions. In recent months, Russia has massed more than 106,000 troops along the border with Ukraine and is planning extensive military exercises in neighboring Belarus and the Mediterranean.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday he would deploy “a full contingent of the army” to the border with Ukraine, claiming: “Ukrainians have started gathering troops [there]. I do not understand why.

Russia continued preparations for the far-reaching naval exercises on Monday when the Baltic Fleet announced that two corvettes had set sail to join the military exercises. The Kremlin has also sent six amphibious landing ships to the Mediterranean Sea as part of the exercises, which will include 140 ships and more than 10,000 Russian soldiers.

Joe Biden was scheduled to hold a video conference Monday afternoon with the leaders of Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Poland, the EU and NATO, in a continued effort to maintain transatlantic unity in the face of the growing threat to Ukraine. . The virtual summit comes days after the US president admitted there were significant differences between the allies on how to respond.

Boris Johnson, warning of a “painful, violent and bloody affair” should Ukraine be invaded, said he had seen clear information of 60 Russian battle groups on the border, pointing to a possible “plan for a blitzkrieg that could end Kyiv”.

The Kremlin condemned the NATO deployments as Western “hysteria.” His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “We see statements from the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pull forces and resources towards the eastern flank. All this leads to the fact that tensions are growing. This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. All of this is happening because of what NATO and the US are doing and because of the information they are spreading.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko claimed that the military alliance was “demonizing Russia” in order to “justify military activity in [Nato’s] eastern flank.” “The language of NATO is the language of threats and military pressure,” he said in remarks published by Russian media. “This is nothing new”.

The White House and Downing Street said they had begun withdrawing diplomats’ families from Ukraine, and EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss the crisis with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken, briefing EU ministers via video link about his talks last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, provided his EU counterparts with no new evidence that a Russian attack was imminent.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he had been assured by Blinken that the US was not “evacuating” key personnel. “After exchanging with each other different information that we have and listening to Secretary Blinken, I don’t think there is a need for us to take any kind of precautionary measure,” he said.

In a joint statement, the EU ministers reiterated their warning that Russia will pay a heavy economic price should it invade Ukraine, after a wobble in Berlin. The head of the German Navy, Kay-Achim Schönbach, resigned after it emerged that he had said that Vladimir Putin deserved respect.

Russia’s mobilization was said to be a threat to peace and stability on the European continent. “Notions of ‘spheres of influence’ have no place in the 21st century,” said the 27 member states.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said the new German government was in a “difficult situation” since it started “just a month ago”. But he warned that the EU and the US needed to show a united front. “We are convinced that real war is a likely possibility,” he said. “The sanctions have to be unbearable.”

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told his counterparts that he had informed the Kremlin that Dublin considered it “unwelcome” even more that Russia planned to hold war games 240 km (150 miles) off the coast of Ireland, in international waters and within the exclusive economic space of the country. zone.

Meanwhile, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced that the EU would provide €1.2 billion in loans and grants to Ukraine to help cover the financial cost of the conflict.


www.theguardian.com

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