NATO Secretary General: Russian Forces Near Ukraine ‘Ready for Combat’

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in PragueFor the first time since countries like the Czech Republic won their freedom, and the Cold War ended, we see one state trying to grab part of another’s territory at gunpoint.

It is a dangerous attempt to turn back time, using the methods and the rhetoric of the past we tried so hard to overcome.

We need to see a genuine political dialogue – and a genuine de-escalation on the ground.

That is why I urge Russia to pull back the troops it has massed on Ukraine’s borders. And to engage in a genuine dialogue with the Ukrainian Government.‎It is important that Russia should take the right steps to rebuild trust, end the destabilisation of Ukraine and come back into line with its international commitments.

NATO considers this aggression illegal and illegitimate. And our commitment to collective defence is unwavering. We are taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability that Russia’s illegitimate actions have created.

Russia is trying to justify its actions by accusing the Ukrainian authorities of oppressing Russian speakers. And by accusing NATO of a Cold War mentality.

This is nothing but propaganda. Designed to subvert the Ukrainian government, pervert the truth, and divert attention from Russia’s own illegal and illegitimate actions.

As I speak, some 40,000 Russian troops are massed along Ukraine’s borders. Not training, but ready for combat. We have seen the satellite images, day after day.

Russia is stirring up ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine and provoking unrest. And Russia is using its military might to dictate that Ukraine should become a federal, neutral state.

That is a decision which only Ukraine, as a sovereign state, can make. Nobody else. So from Prague, I have this message to Russia. You have a choice. To stop blaming others for your own actions. To stop massing your troops. To stop escalating this crisis and start engaging in a genuine dialogue. If Russia is serious about a dialogue, the first step should be to pull back its troops.

Excerpt from remarks to the press by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, April 10, 2014.

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Image: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Prague (photo: NATO)