NATO Chief: Crimea ‘Most Serious Security Crisis Since End of Cold War’

March 19, 2014 - 7:31 PM

NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen

NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks at Georgetown University in Washington on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. (Photo: NATO)

(CNSNews.com) – Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of its Crimea region is “the most serious security crisis since the end of the Cold War,” NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.

“We have seen Russia rip up the international rule book,” Rasmussen told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington DC. “Trying to redraw the map of Europe, and creating in just a few weeks the most serious security crisis since the end of the Cold War.”

“This sort of behavior goes against international norms,” he continued. “And it simply has no place in the 21st century. “

Rasmussen said NATO’s next annual summit, in Britain next September, will provide “an important opportunity to take tough decisions in view off the long-term strategic implications of today’s crisis.”

At a separate event at the Brookings Institution, the NATO chief underscored his grim assessment of the scale of the crisis, calling the events in Crimea “a wake-up call” for NATO and for “all those committed to a Europe whole, free and at peace.”

“We have seen other crises in Europe in the past decades – the western Balkans in the 1990s, Georgia in 2008 – but this is the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War,” he said.

“First, because of its scale, with one of the largest movement of troops for many decades; second, because of the stakes – the freedom of 45 million people and their right to make their own choice; and third, because this crisis is right on NATO’s border.”

In response to the Ukraine situation, and in a bid to reassure NATO allies near Russia, the Pentagon earlier this month announced that the U.S. military is enhancing its participation in a NATO air policing mission over the Baltic countries, and stepping up joint aviation training with forces in Poland.

Visiting Lithuania on Wednesday, Vice-President Joe Biden said the U.S. was also exploring rotating U.S. forces to the Baltic region, for ground and naval exercises as well as training missions.

After his remarks at Brookings, Rasmussen was asked why the response so far appeared to be coming from the U.S. rather than from NATO as a whole.

He replied that the U.S. had responded quickly, “which is highly appreciated,” and that he expected announcements from other NATO allies to follow. He noted that Britain has already announced that it “will contribute to augmenting, or enhancing air policing over the Baltic states.”