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‘NATO making best effort to show it’s doing something about Crimea’

Published time: April 03, 2014 11:43
A pilot of US F15C Eagle jet fighter climbs into the fighter before take off during the Lithuanian - NATO air force exercise at the air force base near Siauliai Zuokniai, Lithunaia, on April 1, 2014. (AFP Photo / Petras Malukas)

Crimea is being used as pretext to increase Western defense budgets, although what’s happened there really has little impact on the vital national interests of NATO-members, security analyst Charles Shoebridge told RT.

RT: NATO says it wants to protect member states against what it calls "Russia's aggression." Its top military commander claims Moscow is ready and able to take Ukraine within three to five days. Are his fears justified?

Charles Shoebridge: This threats supposedly of Russia invading the remnants of Ukraine or rather the bulk of Ukraine, since, after all, the Crimea has gone to Russia has been in the air some time. The Security Minister of Ukraine many weeks ago started saying that Russia was about to invade. Then there was another warning about two weeks ago, now this is yet a third warning that it’s maybe about to happen.

Let’s be clear for all we know Russia may be about to invade Ukraine, but on the political level it seems unlikely and there may be many other reasons why there is build-up of troops and resources along the border with Ukraine, one of which could be that Russia needs, or feels it needs to have the resources in place to intervene in Ukraine should that be necessary in terms of political disorder, chaos within Ukraine as may happen, and indeed, it was perhaps even more likely to have happened a few weeks ago.

Secondly, of course it may be that these forces are in place as a bargaining ploy. After all, the West, NATO is also ramping up the rhetoric and backing it up with deployment of extra forces in the Baltic States. And even yesterday announcing that there would be some form of NATO presence now in countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, all of which, of course, if Russia was doing the same would be called in the Western media ‘escalation’ and ‘provocation’.

RT: Russia insists everything it is doing is internationally legal. It has given full access to observers, yet their reports are ignored. Why?

CS: I think there is a political imperative to make the threat from Russia seem very real at the moment. We have already seen in the last week or so defense chiefs and interested media parties in the West use the Crimean example as a means of saying that defense cuts that have happened in some Western countries ought to be reversed, that we need to be very careful about the threats towards it. In fact, what’s happened in Crimea really has had very little impact on any of the vital national interests of those Western countries involved in NATO.

By the same token, of course, the West wants to express its displeasure about what happened in Crimea. The West is still kicking out at what happened because they realize they can do very little about it on the ground; it’s been made clear by Obama and others that military action from NATO at the present time is really out of a question. After all, Ukraine has got no formal relationship with NATO that would require NATO to intervene. Also the West has very few options now, they have ruled out, understandably, military action. What it can do is to announce limited sanctions, travel bans, etc, but of course it is looking for items that it can put on the agenda to say that it is actually doing something.

Maybe these new measures in terms of restricting cooperation between Russia and NATO would be as damaging for NATO, for a number of reasons, as they will be for Russia, and maybe [they will be] quite short-lived. It looks like what is happening is that NATO along with the EU and the US is really trying to make its best efforts to show that it is doing something about what’s happened in Crimea, irrespective of the lack of connection in terms of its cause and effect.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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