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Presidents Hollande and Obama at the Normandy American Cemetery

at Omaha Beach. Mr. Hollande has had to go to great lengths to keep

Obama and Russian President Putin apart, even having to eat dinner

twice yesterday evening - one with each of his guests.

 

 

NATO Badly Divided on Stationing Troops in East Europe; Facing Moscow (Die Welt, Germany)

 

"NATO members from the Baltics and East Europe are calling for a lasting and visible presence of combat troops and up-to-date equipment in Eastern Europe. Many southern European countries think this is going too far. Within senior NATO circles, Germany is 'extremely cautious.' ... It has apparently already been decided that NATO countries will continue to uphold the 1977 basic agreement with Russia. According to the treaty, 'substantial combat troops' may not be permanently stationed in territories belonging to Warsaw Pact countries. The central question now will be: 'What exactly is meant by "substantial combat troops.'"

 

By Christoph B. Schultz

 

Translated By Stephanie Martin

 

June 6, 2014

 

Germany - Die Welt - Original Article (German)

President Putin during a meeting in Normandy with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one suspects after an icy exchange.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: President Obama and France President Francois Hollande speak on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, June 6, 01:30:05RealVideo

NATO is faced with key decisions. But the alliance is divided on the issue of stationing permanent troops in Eastern Europe.

 

Brussels: They met for the first time in three months, and sat together for almost two hours. They directed accusations at one another, and one after the other, read prepared statements. The atmosphere was glacial, even though Russian Ambassador Alexander Gruschko was the one to request the meeting among 28 NATO ambassadors as part of the NATO-Russia Council. There was hope for a gradual rapprochement between NATO and Russia - despite the Ukraine crisis.That didn't happen.

 

"There is nothing. There are no signs of hope," said one NATO diplomat.

 

This wonít make the meeting between the 28 NATO defense ministers, scheduled for Tuesday in Brussels, any easier. On the contrary. The defense alliance is facing key decisions in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan - but so far there are no answers in sight - and time is short.

 

In early September at the NATO summit in Wales, the heads of state and governments will decide on a new defense plan for Eastern Europe, on an overall improvement in military capabilities, more equitable financial burden sharing within the Alliance, and on the training mission "Resolute Support," slated to begin in Afghanistan in 2015.

 

Rasmussen plans to discuss the consequences of Ukraine crisis

 

After the annexation of Crimea, NATO still isn't clear about how to respond to the threat Russia poses to Eastern Europe. "When NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels this week, we will discuss the short- and long-term consequences of the Ukraine crisis for NATO," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Die Welt.

 

He pointed out that the Alliance has already introduced numerous short-term measures, such as improved air and naval surveillance.

 

"Each of the 28 members of the Alliance is participating in their own way with ships, aircraft, troops, and planners. I call that "solidarity in action," said Rasmussen.Now it is a matter of taking a look at long-term consequences. "Russiaís illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued acts of aggression against Ukraine have created a new security situation in Europe."

 

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What the new long-term measures for an improved defense and a credible deterrent with respect to Russia should look like, however, is still completely open. At Polandís request, the defense ministers will at a minimum discuss augmenting the currently 250 person-strong Multinational Corps Northeast in Stettin, Poland. Most likely, Germany will boost its troops by about 50 soldiers, and going forward, rotating troops will be assigned to NATO headquarters in Stettin for training purposes.

 

Eastern Europeans feel threatened by Russia

 

But from the point of view of Eastern Europeans and citizens of the Baltic states, this would be just a drop in the bucket. They perceive Russia as an "enemy," and feel threatened right on their doorstep.

 

"Russia still wants to depict problems in Ukraine as an internal conflict. But they are not. Russiaís aggressive behavior provoked this conflict," Estoniaís NATO Ambassador Lauri Lepik tells Die Welt.

 

In addition to large-scale NATO maneuvers, NATO members from the Baltic region and Eastern Europe are calling for a lasting and visible presence of combat troops and up-to-date equipment in Eastern Europe. Many southern European countries think this is going too far. Within senior NATO circles, Germany is "extremely cautious" as well. "Thatís disappointing," said one NATO official. The alliance is deeply divided on the issue of stationing permanent troops in Eastern Europe.

 

 

The defense ministers know this. On the evening of June 3 in Brussels, beginning at 7:30 pm, they intend to speak plainly. Then they will run through the mandatory agenda, after which they allegedly plan to work out the details. The program reads"Strategic Implications of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis," and "Changes in the Defense Posture," as they say in the internal jargon of NATO. It has apparently already been decided that NATO countries will continue to uphold the 1977 basic agreement with Russia.

 

According to the treaty, "substantial combat troops" may not be permanently stationed in territories belonging to Warsaw Pact countries, so that Russia doesn't feel threatened.

 

More money is needed for defense

 

The central question now will be: "What exactly is meant by "substantial combat troops." This has always been left unresolved. Expert opinions run anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 troops. The Eastern Europeans, primarily the Poles, now want concrete answers and clear assurances from their Alliance partners - not just assurances that their partners will provide assistance in the event of an attack, but assurances that they can provide assistance.

 

Aside from the question of how many combat troops will be permanently stationed in Eastern Europe, the issue of whether or not a permanent troop presence is even meaningful will be debated. According to military experts, increased levels of deployment readiness and troop flexibility are much more important:

Posted By Worldmeets.US

 

"You must be able to send troops rapidly to where needed.Therefore, NATO Supreme Commander Philip Breedlove intends to recommend to the ministers that the reaction speed of NATO's Rapid Response Force should be improved.

 

 

One thing is already clear: In view of the new challenges in the east, NATO must improve its military capabilities and put more money into defense.

 

"Now that the recession is over in many countries, we expect defense budgets to rise," said Douglas Lute, America's ambassador to NATO. Rasmussen emphasized, "We need the right capabilities to maintain a credible defense."

 

Over the past five years, Russia has boosted investment in the area of defense by 10 percent per year, while some European Alliance members have reduced their expenditures by as much as 40 percent.

 

"I know it's not easy to reverse this trend of cutting defense spending, but our security is the foundation of our economic well-being and life-style, and to protect it, we must invest in defense," Rasmussen said.

 

Afghanistan will also be on the agenda

 

The subject is likely to lead to heated debate at the meeting of defense ministers.In Germany, especially, expectations are high for sending troops to Eastern Europe, which will increase expenditures. Berlin spent just 1.34 percent of GDP on defense, considerably less than the 2 percent called for by NATO. This puts Europeís richest country in 14th place in this area.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, said she doesnít see the former Soviet Republic of Georgia becoming part of NATO in the foreseeable future, and that adding Georgia as a new member isnít on the agenda in Wales, either. Like Ukraine, Georgia aspires for inclusion in the defense alliance.

 

 

Another important item on the ministers' agenda: Afghanistan. The alliance was taken completely by surprise by President Barack Obamaís announcement that, starting in 2015, just 9,800 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan, primarily for training purposes - and would be withdrawn again by 2016. This puts the previous deployment concept for the training mission "Resolute Support" at risk. It is also unclear whether after the American withdrawal in two years, the mission in Afghanistan should be brought to a close entirely.

 

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CLICK HERE FOR GERMAN VERSION

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Posted By Worldmeets.US June 5, 2014 6:49am