According to the German magazine Spiegel, NATO is examining scenarios in the event of a Russian military move in Eastern Europe. Alarm bells are already ringing in eastern states, and NATO is keen to show it could cope.
The article, which appeared in Spiegel's online edition in German on Sunday, cites an internal North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) draft document pertaining to discussions occurring within the military alliance and among individual members about possible scenarios if Russia were to launch a military campaign in Eastern Europe.
The draft document arrives at the conclusion that Russia's ability to "execute a significant military action without much warning poses a wide-reaching threat for maintaining safety and stability in the Euro-Atlantic zone."
NATO has observed a Russian troop buildup near its border with Ukraine, but Russia claims it has no current plans for a military move. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but the alliance is keen to show that it can effectively defend its Baltic members should the need arise.
On Friday, NATO launched a large-scale operation in Estonia known as Exercise Steadfast Javelin 1 to "reflect NATO's collective defense in the Baltic region," according to a NATO statement. Six thousand troops from several NATO members including the United States (pictured above) are taking part in the exercise, which runs through May 23.
The leader of the exercise, General Hans-Lothar Domröse, said in the statement that "there is no doubt the Alliance is strong and NATO's resolve to assure its members of the ongoing utility of the Washington Treaty remains central to our actions."
The Washington Treaty refers to the alliance's founding North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington, D.C. in 1949.
According to information obtained by Spiegel, however, NATO would have a difficult time defending against a potential Russian incursion under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This states that an armed attack against one NATO member is to be considered an attack against them all, and the attacked nation is to receive swift assistance as deemed necessary from the other members. This could include a military response.
NATO must 'find an answer'
The problem, according to Spiegel, is that it has long been practice to not consider an attack from Russia to be a threat, and therefore military strongholds have not been established in eastern European countries.
"When Baltic states joined NATO, there wasn't a military threat from Russia," German EU parliamentarian Elmar Brok, a long-time veteran of EU foreign affairs, told Spiegel. "The alliance stuck to the agreement with Russia and didn't station any troops east of the Elbe. Now that it appears [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's policies have changed, NATO has to find an answer."
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told Spiegel that it was time for NATO to repeat what it had done in Western European nations in countries like his.
"There are bases in Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy and Turkey. But there aren't any bases where they are actually needed," he said.
Unrest continues in Ukraine
The situation in Ukraine continues to worsen despite the conclusion of round-table talks on Saturday in the eastern cit of Kharkiv. Skirmishes between Ukrainian security forces and separatists from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions seeking to join Russia continued through the weekend, with the separatists vowing to disrupt presidential elections scheduled to take place in one week's time.
Russia has questioned the legitimacy of an election held under "the thunder of guns," while Kyiv says it will not talk with "robbers and terrorists," referring to the separatists in the east.
"They will not be telling the Ukrainian people how to live in our country," interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told Saturday's meeting.
mz/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)