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NATO to beef up defenses in Eastern Europe

Deployment of 'all means necessary' by land, air and sea

01 April, 19:27
NATO to beef up defenses in Eastern Europe (see related) (ANSA) - Brussels, April 1 - NATO has given its senior military commander in Europe a mandate to beef up self-defense plans in Eastern European countries after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region last month, Alliance sources said Tuesday.

The mandate includes deployment of air, naval and land forces, increasing response readiness levels, bolstering military exercises, and possible deployment in the Baltic and Black seas, which border on Russia.

The mandate for ''all necessary means, for the necessary length of time'' was issued at the start of a two-day meeting of foreign ministers from the 28-member NATO bloc, which is convening for the first time since the Crimea takeover.

Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, the US, and the UK have said they will contribute to this effort.

NATO's current Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) is General Philip M. Breedlove from the United States Air Force.

In a meeting with acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, the NATO ministers also pledged to ''enact immediate and long-term measures to bolster Ukraine's self-defense capabilities''.

NATO ministers in their concluding statement said they do not recognize ''Russia's illegal and illegitimate attempt to annex Crimea''.

They urged Moscow to immediately act to return to respect for international law.

Russia acted against the principles and commitments of its partnership with NATO, violating the trust on which that partnership was founded, the ministers said.

The NATO allies also approved a packet of measures to strengthen ties with their east European partners, adding they will review their Russia partnership at the next summit to be held in June.

Meanwhile, the NATO-Russia channel remains open to ''political dialogue'' at ambassador level and beyond, the alliance said.