Helping Ukraine Reclaim Crimea Hardly Under Discussion - NATO
NEW YORK, JULY 16 (RIA Novosti) – NATO members are not discussing military plans to restore Crimea to Ukraine, although the alliance still insists the territory belongs to Ukraine, head of NATO's Allied Land Command said.
"It clearly is the policy of the nations of NATO that Crimea belongs to Ukraine. But candidly, you don't hear a lot of discussion about how we're going – what we're going to do to help restore it to Ukraine," Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said in a foreign press center briefing.
Lt. Gen. Hodges believes Moscow used a strategy of "creeping normalcy, which means that they do something, and if the West doesn't react to it, that that becomes the new norm,' ultimately reshaping the region's borders.
"So it's almost like the boundary has been changed, and now territorial waters in the Black Sea potentially are changed," Hodges concluded.
Tensions between Moscow and the West intensified following Russia's reunification with Crimea, a former autonomous republic within Ukraine, that held a referendum in March where the majority of the population voted to rejoin the Russian Federation. The West did not acknowledge the results of the vote and responded with targeted sanctions against Russia, while NATO's military presence close to Russian borders has been on the rise.
NATO used the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine, to justify its renewed activities in Europe, driven by the need to ensure the security of its allies. Baltic Air Policing missions have intensified and additional NATO ships have been sent to the Baltic and the Mediterranean seas. NATO also declared an increase in permanent troop deployment, expansion of training programs, strengthening of early warning systems and improving the capacity of response forces.
Russia continues to insist that the Crimean referendum was fully compliant with international law and must be recognized as legitimate, whereas pushing the Western military-political space closer to Russian borders by expanding NATO contradicts the alliance's reassurance of its good intentions and readiness to jointly build a strategic partnership.
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