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NATO troops in East Europe ‘could be permanent’ after Crimea crisis

Photo: AFP

NATO will have to consider permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern Europe in response to the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the organisation’s top military commander said Tuesday.

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The 28-member alliance has arranged a number of short-term army, air force and naval rotations in Eastern Europe following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, but these are due to finish at the end of this year.

Asked whether NATO might have to look at permanently stationing troops in its member states in Eastern Europe, US General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said it was “something we will have to consider”.

The issue would be discussed at an upcoming summit of NATO leaders in early September, he said.

Ukraine has received its first slice of financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, worth $3.2 billion, the country’s central bank said Wednesday.

The tranche is part of a $17 billion two-year aid programme.

According to a spokesman cited by Reuters, more than $1 billion went to the bank’s foreign currency reserves and the rest to the state budget.

 

In the run-up to the summit, NATO commanders, defense ministers and foreign ministers would look at “tougher questions” about whether the alliance had the right footprint in Europe, Breedlove told a news conference in Ottawa.

NATO countries drew down their defense budgets following the end of the Cold War, as they started to look upon Russia as a partner.

But Russia's "annexation of Crimea... changes that dynamic," said Breedlove.

"What we are very clear about now is that that paradigm has changed in the current situation; Russia is not acting as a partner.

"I think we need to look at our responsiveness, our readiness, and then our positioning of forces to be able to address this new paradigm that we have seen demonstrated in Crimea and now on the eastern border of Ukraine."

Breedlove, who said on Monday he did not think Moscow would send troops into eastern Ukraine, stressed the steps that NATO had taken so far were designed to support eastern members of the alliance.

“We are taking measures that should be very easily discerned as being defensive in nature. This is about assuring our allies, not provoking Russia, and we are communicating that at every level,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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