At the Munich Security Conference, the commander of the US Air Forces in Europe and NATO Allied Operations, General Philip Breedlove said 'no one wants a new Cold War.' DW's Michael Knigge posed the questions.
DW: Prime Minister Medvedev this morning said that the world had slipped into a new Cold War. Do you feel - does NATO feel - like you have entered a Cold War? And what does this statement mean for the conflict with Russia over Ukraine?
Philip Breedlove: Certainly Minister Medvedev is entitled to his opinion. We don't look at what is happening as a Cold War, and no one in NATO wants to return to a Cold War. We've talked specifically about that.
You have heard me say before, you have heard the secretary general say before, you've heard multiple ministers in foreign affairs, defense and chiefs of defense, all say the same thing. NATO is a defensive alliance, clear about the collective defense of our allies.
Our actions are defensive, and they are proportionate in size and capability, and we are taking those actions because we have seen a nation to the east that for two decades we were trying to make a partner of this nation, and this nation has recently demonstrated that is does not want to be a partner: It invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and it continues to occupy it today. So, Russia used force to change an internationally recognized order. Some months later they cross the internationally recognized border of Ukraine and entered into the Donbass, and they remain there today.
And, even more recently, you saw they went into Georgia and South Ossetia and moved the lines yet again in South Ossetia and moved the line over the top over a transmission of energy line.
So, we have a nation that has once again put on the table that it will use force to change internationally recognized borders. And, for that, NATO is taking the appropriate defensive measures that it needs to take. But no one wants a new Cold War, and that is not what we in NATO see ourselves headed towards.
Where you surprised that Germany took a leadership role in establishing the NATO mission in the Aegean and that it did not just took a lead in getting that mission started, but that it is also now playing a leadership role in carrying it out?
I wouldn’t say the word surprised. I don’t like that word so I wouldn’t use it. A lot of our European allies are under great pressure as you know from these flows of immigrants. And remember when the immigrant flow first started, most of them where what you and I would call legitimate economic immigrants or immigrants leaving ungoverned spaces or spaces where there were unresponsive governments. Over time this has exacerbated because of the civil war in Syria and now we see a lot stronger flow of immigrants. And in that flow of immigrants we all know that there are embedded criminality, terrorists and foreign fighters that are returning. So this is a huge problem to our nations in central Europe and NATO.
It is not surprising to me that the nations of central Europe would try to find a solution. I am thankful that Germany took the lead. And I am thankful that Germany pulled together our two allies, Turkey and Greece, to work together on this, because that would have been central to getting this right. So I am thankful that they stepped forward on this mission. Their ship is currently the command ship of SNMG2 (Standing NATO Maritime Group 2). But it will not remain under German command and control. It will rotate to others. This will be a NATO mission using NATO forces in NATO air, land and sea space.
General Philip M. Breedlove is in command of the United States Air Forces in Europe and NATO Allied Command Operations as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
The questions were posed during a media round table at the Munich Security Conference.