TIME Foreign Policy

John Kerry Tells Iran and Syria to Back Off Iraq

Secretary of State John Kerry warned U.S. adversaries in the Middle East not to foment unrest in Iraq

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Amid mounting reports of military intervention in Iraq by Syria and Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry strongly advised that surrounding countries in the Middle East step away from any action that might further unhinge the delicate security situation.

“We’ve made it clear to everyone in the region that we don’t need anything to take place that might exacerbate the sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension,” Kerry told a NATO summit. “And so it’s very important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respect to the sectarian divide.”

The Syrian government reportedly bombed Sunni militant strongholds on Tuesday, along the western border of Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly sent in drones and other military supplies. Kerry added that questions about Iran’s intentions in Iraq should be directed at the Iranian and Iraqi governments.

While the U.S. had a stake in what happens to Baghdad, the American government will not directly pick Iraqi leadership, Kerry said. Iraqi citizens must develop a government that can push back against terrorism and “will not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday opted against forming an interim “national salvation government” in order to unite the sectarian groups butting heads in the region, calling it “a coup against the constitution and the political process.”

“It’s up to Iraqis to decide who has the ability to do that and who represents that future,” Kerry said.

TIME Afghanistan

Report: Friendly Fire Incident Kills 5 U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Five NATO service members and one Afghan soldiers were killed in in what officials fear was a case of "fratricide"

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Five U.S. soldiers and one Afghan soldier were killed in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, reportedly in an incident of friendly fire.

NATO said that the soldiers were patrolling a volatile region of southern Afghanistan when their unit came under enemy fire. An Afghan police chief told the New York Times that the soldiers were ambushed at close-range by Taliban militants. The soldiers radioed for air support, at which point a coalition jet mistakenly bombed their position, the Times reported.

NATO has not confirmed the details of the soldiers’ death, saying that the incident was still under investigation. “Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved,” read a statement from the International Security Assistance Force, NATO’s coalition force in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon confirmed that five U.S. troops had been killed on Tuesday. “Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen.”

TIME NATO

Hagel Pushes NATO Partners to Put More Skin in the Game

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel speaks during a news conference at the end of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference in Brussels on June 4, 2014. Reuters

During a trip to Brussels on Wednesday, Chuck Hagel leaned on fellow NATO member states to up their financial stake in the alliance in order to counter an increasingly aggressive Russia

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel leaned on fellow NATO member states to up their financial stake in the alliance in order to counter an increasingly aggressive Russia during a trip to Brussels on Wednesday.

The secretary of defense’s urging for greater financial contributions from NATO members comes as several of the bloc’s governments continue to slash their military budgets, which has forced the U.S. to shoulder more of the costs of keeping the alliance afloat.

“Over the long term, current spending trends threaten NATO’s integrity and capabilities,” Hagel told reporters.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Hagel spoke forcefully about the need to counter Moscow and said Russia’s recent actions in neighboring Ukraine “constitute the most significant and direct challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War.”

The sectary of defense called on NATO’s members to “issue a definitive declaration to reverse current trends and rebalance the alliance’s burden-sharing,” according to a statement published by the Pentagon.

Hagel’s trip to the NATO headquarters in Belgium coincided with President Barack Obama’s state visit to Poland. During a speech in Warsaw, Obama pledged to tap Congress for an additional $1 billion to fund new European security measures.

TIME career

What to Do After You’ve Been NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) James Stavridis (L) speaks with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander, US General Stanley McChystal, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on June 11, 2010 before the start of the second day of a NATO defense ministers meeting at organization headquaters in Brussels. GEORGES GOBET—AFP/Getty Images

How to change a life: James Stavridis had to transition from a world where people more or less do what you order them to do, to one where no one is going to salute.

Recently, I made a huge job and life transition: after more than 35 years in the U.S. military, and the last four as the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, I needed new challenges. This is, of course, a situation familiar to many — especially in today’s highly mobile job universe, when an average college graduate will have perhaps a dozen significant jobs and possibly four or more separate careers.

As I tried to work through what to do next, there were many options. I was offered positions in international consulting, global risk assessment firms, domestic business ventures, board positions and even additional jobs in government. To sort through it, I tried to think of what I had enjoyed so much about my time in the U.S. Navy. After all, something had kept me happily going for more than three decades. I realized that I liked many things about the Navy: going to sea as a mariner, traveling around the world, working with brave volunteers in combat and on diplomatic missions, and the educational benefits, to name a few. But what I truly loved about the Navy was the challenge of leading and mentoring young people, helping guide the trajectory of their lives in a positive direction. “Sounds like education,” said one mentor, herself a university president. And so I set about finding the right kind of job in the world of education.

“If you think faculty meetings are tough sledding, try mediating between 28 allies debating an intervention in Libya.”I knew that I have a deep passion for the international sphere, and a real love for the place I had earned my own graduate degree, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Luckily, the incumbent dean was retiring at a time that made it possible for me to move directly from my position at NATO, which Dwight Eisenhower had held, to a nice campus in Medford, Mass. I went from an organization representing half of the world’s GDP and 3 million men and women in uniform to one with 700 graduate students and 150 faculty and administrators. It was a startling shift.

People kept saying, “it must be pretty challenging to go from the military — where people more or less do what you order them to do — to the world of academe, where no one is going to salute and move out.” The President of Tufts, to whom I report, was asked why on earth he hired a military guy to lead one of his graduate schools. He said, only slightly in jest, “I wanted at least one dean who knows how to follow orders.” There’s certainly some truth in that.

The transition has gone well. Why? Because of things I learned along the path of what my father jokingly referred to as my misspent youth in the Navy.

First, I have focused on listening and learning, especially in this first year. I have been reading not only classics on higher education (The University: An Owner’s Manual by Henry Rosovsky), but also brilliant novels about this world (Stoner by John Williams and Something for Nothing by Michael Klein). I’ve also reached out to mentors in this industry, from Robert Gates, former President of Texas A&M, to Jack DeGioia of Georgetown, to Donna Shalala at the University of Miami, and many others.

Second, I spend lots of time walking the campus and talking to students, faculty and administrators. The faculty is at the heart of any school, but as I always say, there is another name for students: customers. I also chat with the cleaners, maintenance people, campus police and the folks running our dining facility. Putting in the time to understand the full spectrum of an enterprise is critical.

Third, the university is coming up with a strategic plan for the first time in a decade. It’s not only a terrific way to team build and create a coherent way ahead, but also a good exercise in learning where the faulty lines and fissures of an institution lie. Research versus teaching? Practical skills courses versus theory and history? Fundraising for facilities or financial aid? Disciplines that cooperate together and those that compete? Working on the plan throws all those issues under a bright light: just what the new dean needs.

Finally, I went from the crisp efficiency of the U.S. military to what feels like, in comparison, the free-wheeling academic carnival that is higher education. I spent four years in NATO, a consensus-driven, highly competitive, discussion-oriented international security organization. If you think faculty meetings are tough sledding, try mediating between 28 allies debating an intervention in Libya. Much of the same skills are called for: collegiality, good humor, a sense of where you want to land in the process, but above all deep respect for each of the participants in the dialog. Collaboration is at the heart of NATO, and at the heart of the academy as well — hard as it is at times to achieve.

Academe and higher education in particular are not for everyone, nor for the faint of heart. But for me — applying some of what I learned along the way in my nation’s service — it has been a delight.

James Stavridis, a former NATO Commander and retired four-star Navy Admiral, serves at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is the author of the upcoming memoir The Accidental Admiral.

TIME intelligence

Inside Putin’s East European Spy Campaign

Vladimir Putin Spy
President Vladimir Putin of Russia seen after a Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting in Minsk, Belarus on April 29, 2014. Mikhail Metzel—Itar-Tass/Landov

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s well-organized espionage operations from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus are described as "soft power with a hard edge," but his efforts across the region have been more systematic than the unrest in Ukraine suggests

On Sept. 8, 2012, the Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky participated in the opening of a Russian nationalist organization called the Izborsky Club in the monastery town of Pskov, just across the border from Estonia. His speech itself was not particularly memorable, but the Russian official’s presence at the affair was not lost on the Estonian Internal Security Service, which believes the club’s imperialist message and outreach to ethnic Russians across the border are part of an anti-Estonian influence operation run by Moscow.

The head of the club, Aleksandr Prokhanov, seemed to confirm the Estonian suspicions later that month when he declared, “Our club is a laboratory, where the ideology of the Russian state is being developed. It is an institute where the concept of a breakthrough is created; it is a military workshop, where an ideological weapon is being forged that will be sent straight into battle.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has many such weapons in his irredentist arsenal. The rapid collapse of the pro-Moscow government of Victor Yanukovich in Ukraine brought some of them, like paramilitary force, to the attention of the western public. But Putin’s efforts across the region have been far more systematic and carefully thought out than the recent chaos in Ukraine suggests. Over the last decade, Putin has established a well-organized, well-funded and often subtle overt and covert operation in the vast swath of neighboring countries, from Estonia on the Baltic Sea to Azerbaijan in the Caucuses, say western and regional government officials. “He’s implementing a plan that he’s had all along,” says Clifford Gaddy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of a biography of Putin.

The operation has been described by local intelligence officials as “soft power with a hard edge” and includes a range of Cold War espionage tools. His Baltic neighbors say, for example, that he has deployed agents provocateurs to stir up their minority ethnic Russian groups which make up 25% of the population in Estonia and as much as 40% of the population in Latvia. They say he has established government-controlled humanitarian front organizations in their capitals, infiltrated their security services and energy industry companies, instigated nationalist riots and launched cyber attacks. The goal, says the Estonian Ambassador to the U.S., Marina Kaljurand, is “to restore in one form or another the power of the Russian Federation on the lands where Russian people live.”

The operation has the secondary, larger goal of undermining and rolling back western power, say U.S. and European officials. And while the greatest threat is to his immediate neighbors, his activities also challenge Europe and the U.S. All NATO countries have committed to each other’s mutual defense, which means the U.S. is treaty-bound to come to Russia’s NATO neighbors, like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, if Putin were to attack.

For now, Putin seems unlikely to risk a direct conflict with NATO. But his espionage efforts in relatively weak NATO countries can be as effective as military action. “If you look at the complex sort of strategy that Moscow has employed in Crimea and in Ukraine it becomes much less clear what constitutes an invasion or measures to destabilize,” neighboring countries, says Sharyl Cross, director of the Kozmetsky Center at St. Edward’s University. That uncertainty about what kind of invasion the Baltics might face could make a strong NATO response impossible.

That in turn, says former CIA chief John McLaughlin, could be even more damaging to the U.S. and Western Europe by fatally undermining one of the most successful peacetime alliances in history. “If he were to challenge NATO in some way that paralyzed us over an Article Five issue, that would be a dagger to the heart of the alliance,” McLaughlin says.

The espionage confrontation between Russia and its Western neighbors started with their independence back in the early 1990s, but it escalated in 2007. In one particularly bad incident, the Estonian government removed a statue of a Russian soldier from central Tallinn in April that year, sparking riots by ethnic Russians. In the wake of the riots, Amb. Kaljurand, who was then the Estonian ambassador to Moscow, was attacked in her car by a mob on her way to a press conference. Days later a massive Distributed Denial Of Service cyber attack was launched against the computer systems of the Estonian government and major Estonian industries. In private meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Estonia, top Estonian officials said Russia was behind the organization and implementation of all the attacks, according to confidential cables sent to Washington by the U.S. embassy and published by Wikileaks.

The war in Georgia in August 2008, sharpened NATO’s focus on Putin’s threat. Russia declared it was protecting ethnic Russians from a hostile Georgian government, an assertion that was taken as a direct warning by other countries in the region with Russian minorities, including the Baltic States and Ukraine. Around the world, intelligence agencies noticed a shift in Russian behavior, according to other Wikileaks cables. In a meeting between a State Department intelligence officer and his counterpart from the Australian government in Canberra in mid-November 2008, for example, the Australian warned the U.S. that Russia was launching a regional program to destabilize its neighbors and advance its interests. In a secret cable back to Washington, the State official said his Australian counterpart “described the Baltic states and Ukraine as ‘countries that are in Russia’s sights,’ with the dangerous similarities in Moscow’s view of the ethnically Russian population and strategic geography of Crimea to those which motivated its recent actions against Georgia.”

In response to the war in Georgia, the U.S. agreed for the first time that NATO should draw up contingency plans to respond to a Russian attack against the Baltic states. The alliance set about expanding plans known as Operation Eagle Guardian, which were developed to defend Poland, to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Russia for its part also stepped up its game. Putin encouraged the Russian parliament to pass a law authorizing him to intervene in other countries to protect ethnic Russians. More subtly, in 2008, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs established a national agency dedicated to advancing Russian interests especially in the former Soviet Union, now known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, and to engaging with and organizing what Moscow calls “compatriots living abroad.” Called Rossotrudnichestvo, the agency performs a variety of traditional cultural roles at embassies around the world. It also helps organize local ethnic Russian groups abroad in ways that unsettle host governments.

According to a report by the Estonian security services, membership in one local ethnic Russian group in Estonia, “Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots” is approved by the Russian Embassy and its activities are guided by the embassy. The purpose of the group “is to organize and coordinate the Russian diaspora living in foreign countries to support the objectives and interests of Russian foreign policy under the direction of Russian departments,” according to the most recent report of the Estonian Internal Security Service. “The compatriot policy aims to influence decisions taken in the host countries, by guiding the Russian-speaking population, and by using influence operations inherited from the KGB,” the report says.

Last October, Mother Jones magazine said the FBI had interviewed Americans who had accepted travel stipends from the office of Russotrudnichestvo in Washington as part of an investigation into potential spying by the Russian agency. The head of the Rossotrudnichestvo office denied the charges and called on the U.S. government to distance itself from the allegations. The FBI and other U.S. agencies declined to comment on the report.

Russia also targets regional businesses and businessmen to establish influence over key sectors, especially energy. Recently, Latvian intelligence identified a top businessman in the energy sector holding clandestine meetings with a Russian intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover out of the Russian embassy, according to an official familiar with NATO and Latvian intelligence. When Latvian security services reached out to the businessman in an attempt to work with him, his meetings with the Russian official stopped, but his trips to Russia increased. The Latvian intelligence services concluded he was meeting with his Russian handler out of their view, the official says.

Putin has also used his intelligence advantage in neighboring countries to go after NATO itself. After Estonia arrested the former head of its National Security Authority, Herman Simm, in 2009 on charges of spying for Moscow, the Atlantic alliance uncovered and expelled two alleged Russian co-conspirators working at its headquarters in Brussels.

Most recently during the crisis in Ukraine, Putin has stepped up the traditional use of media propaganda, especially on television. The propaganda peaked with outlandish and false accusations of attacks against Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine. Russia’s neighbors have taken a variety of approaches to countering the propaganda, from outright censorship to counter-programming. On Mar. 21, Lithuania banned broadcasts of Gazprom-owned NTV Mir station after it showed a movie that the government said “spread lies about” Lithuania’s move to declare independence from the Soviet Union in early 1991. On Apr. 3, Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council suspended the broadcast rights of Rossiya RTR for three weeks, claiming the station was peddling “war propaganda.”

Estonia, for its part, considered banning Russian broadcasts but opted to leave Russian channels on and instead to compete with a barrage of “counter-programming” through Russian language TV, radio and print media. “If you ban things it creates more interest,” says Amb. Kaljurand, “The better way is to give better facts and the point of view of the West.”

The U.S. and its allies are hardly innocents in the international spy game. The U.S. government uses overt and covert means to influence and organize pro-Western groups in many of the same countries Putin is targeting. It works through cultural and diplomatic channels to recruit intelligence sources around the world and in eastern Europe, and the Ukraine crisis has only heightened that work. Says CIA spokesman Dean Boyd, “The Agency’s strong partnerships throughout the region enable cooperation on a variety of intelligence issues. When a foreign crisis erupts, it’s normal for the CIA to shift into overdrive to ensure that our officers have access to the best available information to support the policy community.”

It is also true that Russia’s western neighbors include some with anti-Russian and anti-Semitic views that are occasionally reflected in political debate. Lithuania and Latvia in particular are noted in repeated U.S. diplomatic cables from the region to Washington for the presence of “strident” anti-Russian and anti-Semitic voices in politics, some of them belonging to powerful figures.

In late April the U.S. deployed 600 troops to the Baltics and Poland, and U.S. and other NATO countries increased air patrols in the Baltics. The largely symbolic deployment was intended to reassure all four countries that the U.S. takes its Article 5 obligations seriously, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at the time. Likewise, Kirby said, “If there is a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.”

Even the most nervous Russian neighbors believe Putin’s use of force is likely to stop in Ukraine, but his espionage program is likely to continue. “[He] is using the soft power tools and other forms of indirect coercion and influence against the Baltics states,” says the official familiar with NATO and Latvian intelligence, “He will use all of these tactics.”

That is a particular concern for Moscow’s neighbors as Russians everywhere prepare to celebrate on May 9 Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany. “If we have a little bit of rioting that will make people become scared and they’ll say maybe we need to find an accommodation with the Russians,” the official says.

TIME Ukraine

G7 Nations Confirms New Russia Sanctions As Military Observers Detained

Crisis in Ukraine
Ukrainian Special forces in position at a checkpoint on the main road between Sloviansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, April 24 2014. Maysun—EPA

As the G7 nations prepared new sanctions for Russia, Ukrainian separatists detained independent military observers on suspicion of being "NATO spies"

The United States and other G7 countries announced “broader, coordinated” economic sanctions to be imposed on Russia Friday, while Russia negotiates the release of military observers detained by separatists in the eastern part of Ukraine.

In a statement, the G7 leaders praised Ukraine for taking steps to meet the de-escalation agreement brokered in Geneva two weeks ago, while condemning Russia for neither taking appropriate steps nor castigating the actions of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

“We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia,” leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States said in a statement.

“Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine’s presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia’s actions.”

The sanctions could begin as early as Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Meanwhile, negotiators worked Saturday to secure the release of 13 visitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) detained by Russian separatists, including eight from a German-led party and five Ukrainians, ABC reports.

Russia said it would do all it can to release the detainees, according to state media. “Russia as a member of the OSCE will undertake all possible steps in this matter,” Russia’s OSCE envoy Andrei Kelin said.

A separatist leader in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, announced his group would be willing to release a group of detained military observers it suspected of being NATO spies in exchange for the release of jailed pro-Russian supporters, the AP reports.

 

TIME Military

Gen. Stanley McChrystal Pens Blog On How He Survived Being Fired

“The uniform I’d first donned as a 17-year old plebe at West Point, the uniform of my father, grandfather, and brothers, was no longer mine to wear,” he wrote.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has admitted having a crisis of identity after getting fired from the U.S. Army by Barack Obama in 2010, saying he bounced back by thinking creatively about the skills he learned in 38-plus years as a soldier.

“There is only one Army in which you serve,” McChrystal wrote in a blog posted on LinkedIn Tuesday. “When that identity is gone, it is gone forever. For me, it was gone in an instant, and on terms that I could never have imagined.”

McChrystal was the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan when, in June 2010, Rolling Stone ran an article depicting McChrystal and aides poking fun at top civilian leadership in the United States, including Vice President Joe Biden. In the article, by the late Michael Hastings, McChrystal says Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” when in the presence of military brass.

“I boarded a flight immediately, returning from Afghanistan to Washington, D.C. to address the issue with our Nation’s leadership. Less than 24 hours later I walked out of the Oval Office and in an instant, a profession that had been my life’s passion and focus came to an end,” McChrystal wrote Tuesday.

At the time of the incident, McChrystal apologized publicly for the incident, saying “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.” But in his LinkedIn post Tuesday, the general describes his portrayal in Hastings’ piece as being as “unfamiliar as it was unfair,” suggesting he now disputes the article.

McChrystal says he recovered from the shock of the incident by re-thinking the skills he had amassed in his decades as a soldier. “Like leaders in many walks of life, my business has been to serve with, and for, others,” he said. “By focusing on this simple truth, and allowing it to guide my decisions through a difficult time, this curveball ultimately opened as many doors as it closed.” Since leaving the Army McChrystal has started a company, hit the speaking circuit and taught at Yale.

TIME Military

NATO’s Back in Business, Thanks to Russia’s Threat to Ukraine

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS-POLITICS-SLAVYANSK
Armed militants outside the regional state building seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on Wednesday. Genya Savilov / AFP / Getty Images

But its efforts are limited to protecting itself, not saving Kiev

Back in 1993, during the earliest days of the Clinton Administration, Senator Richard Lugar of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned that with the Soviet Union history, NATO needed to “go out of area, or out of business.”

Like any self-respecting, self-perpetuating armed bureaucracy, the alliance got the hint, deploying forces—and, in some cases, fighting—in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf of Aden and Libya.

President Clinton may have moved from the world stage, and Senator Lugar may have lost the 2012 Indiana Republican primary to an ultimately-defeated Tea Party candidate, but NATO—thanks to Russia’s threat to Ukraine—is now firmly back in business, finally in its own area.

The North Atlantic alliance made clear Wednesday that “a political solution is the only way forward” in dealing with Russia’s threats to its former fellow Soviet republic. That may be the only way forward for NATO and the West. But Russia may not be willing to play fair.

“We call on Russia to be part of the solution,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “To stop destabilizing Ukraine, pull back its troops from the borders and make clear it doesn’t support the violent actions of well-armed militias of pro-Russian separatists.”

Good luck with that, Secretary General.

When NATO faced a similar situation in the Balkans in the 1990s, importuning for political solutions failed and ended with thousands of bombing runs against Serbian targets. The Serbs are Slavs, as are the Russians. So are the Ukrainians. Ethnicity isn’t destiny, but it plays a role.

NATO hopes that Thursday’s meeting in Geneva among representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union will ease tensions. “We continue to call on Russia to take action that de-escalates the situation and the tensions in Ukraine by returning its forces to their pre-crisis positions and numbers; moving its forces from the Ukrainian border as well from Crimea; ceasing its support for armed separatist groups that have seized government buildings, blockaded roads and stockpiled weapons in eastern Ukraine; and engage directly in a dialogue with Ukraine about its concerns when it comes to ethnic Russians in parts of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

U.S. aid to Ukraine so far has consisted of 300,000 Meals-Ready-to-Eat for famished fighters in the field. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who served as NATO’s commander during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, is urging deliveries of nonlethal aid, including body armor, night-vision goggles and aviation fuel to help Ukraine thwart any Russian invasion. The list only serves to highlight how little the West is willing to do to help Ukraine. No one believes it will make much difference if Russian tanks cross the border.

“We’re actively considering forms of assistance, the kinds of assistance that we may be able to provide to Ukraine,” Carney said. “We are not considering lethal assistance, but I’m not going to itemize the types of assistance that are under consideration.”

Rasmussen made it clear that NATO is making military moves—but only to calm its jittery new members who fear Moscow. “We will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water and more readiness on the land,” he said. “Air policing aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region. Allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, as required.”

But their mission is limited to defending NATO’s 28 member states. There is no appetite in the West for military action to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty, despite a 1994 pact among Russia, Britain and the U.S. pledging to honor its borders.

So it looks like the Cold War has returned: the Soviet Union crushed uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, while NATO observed from the sidelines. Russia did it in Georgia in 2008, and Crimea last month. It could happen in Ukraine momentarily. Once again, NATO will be watching.

TIME NATO

NATO Could Send U.S. Troops to Eastern Europe

Air Force General Philip Breedlove testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 11, 2013.
Air Force General Philip Breedlove testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on April 11, 2013. Chris Maddaloni—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, has been given until Tuesday to propose measures in response to the ongoing presence of Russian troops along the border with eastern Ukraine

NATO troops, including Americans, could be deployed to Eastern Europe in an effort to shore up defenses in allied countries that share a border with Russia, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said if troops are deployed to Eastern Europe he couldn’t “write off the involvement of any nation, to include the United States.” Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, has been given until Tuesday to propose measures the 28-country alliance may take in response to the ongoing presence of Russian troops along the border with eastern Ukraine, the Associated Press reports. Other countries that border Russia to the east include Belarus, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

“Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies,” Breedlove said.

Breedlove said Moscow’s plans for its force of roughly 40,000 near eastern Ukraine are not known, but that the contingent “has all the provisioning and enabling that it needs to accomplish military objectives if given them.”

[AP]

TIME europe

NATO Chief Says Russia Could Attack Ukraine Without Warning

NATO's top military chief, General Breedlove, attends a news conference at Pristina Military Airport
NATO's top military chief, General Philip Breedlove, warned that the threat from Russian troops located within striking distance of Ukraine's border is very potent. Here he is seen at the Pristina Military Airport June 7, 2013. © Hazir Reka—Reuters

NATO's chief says Russian troops are prepared to strike Ukraine on 12-hours notice and could accomplish their military objectives within days

The 40,000 Russian troops massed close to the border with Ukraine could attack with little warning and seize control of parts of the country in a matter of days, the top NATO commander said in a new interview.

General Philip M. Breedlove warned in an interview with the New York Times that the potent mix of warplanes, helicopter units, artillery, infantry and commandos could move with just 12 hours notice and achieve Russia’s military objectives just a few days.

“Essentially, the force is ready to go,” Breedlove said. “We believe it could accomplish its objective between three to five days. I think they have all the opportunities and they can make whatever decision they want.” Reflecting skepticism that the troops are massed for a training exercise like Russian officials have said, Breedlove added: “This is a very large, very well-equipped force to be called an exercise.”

Breedlove’s comments suggest the recent movement of Russian troops away from the border was part of a regular rotation, rather than the pullback some had hoped.

“What we can say now is that we do see a battalion-size unit moving, but what we can’t confirm is that it is leaving the battlefield,” Breedlove said. “Whether that movement is aft to a less belligerent configuration or returning to barracks, we do not see that.”

[NYT]

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