The former Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on military spending, the threat from Russia, and why Afghanistan has strengthened the allianceby Bronwen Maddox / May 14, 2014 / Leave a comment
Nato is stepping up its presence in Eastern Europe
“We will not hesitate to take further steps” to protect Baltic and other eastern European states, the Secretary General of Nato told Prospect as unrest in eastern Ukraine continues to build. “We have from now until September”—the next Nato summit, to be held near Newport, Wales—to agree new measures, on which work had already begun, he added.
Calling again on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine’s borders, and to stop supporting armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that he had seen “not the slightest evidence” that Russia had started to do so, despite its promises. “On the contrary,” he added, calling President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Crimea, “which is occupied territory”, a “provocative” move.
But Nato would be unable to fulfil its aims if countries continued to slash their defence budgets, he said. “We can’t afford to disarm in Europe, while seeing Russia rearm and mass troops on the Ukrainian border,” he added. “The cuts must stop.”
Rasmussen, entering his last six months at the head of Nato, has clearly found the Ukraine crisis useful in sharpening Nato’s sense of purpose and urgency at a time of swingeing defence cuts in most of its members. A quarter of a century since the fall of the Soviet Union, the north Atlantic military alliance has repeatedly had to defend itself against those who say it has lost its way—or at least some of its funding. It has suffered from the loss of the enemy it was created to resist, and from US resentment at carrying the lion’s share of the burden. Nor have the struggles of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and the US-led coalition in Iraq, made any of its main members keen to commit forces.
However, Russia’s effective annexation of the Crimea peninsula of Ukraine has reignited the sense of threat on Europe’s borders, and prompted a flurry of responses from Nato members. “We are focussing on the defence and protection of our allies,” said Rasmussen, who as Prime Minister of Denmark from 2001 to 2009 took a robust approach to liberal intervention, committing its forces early to the coalition in Iraq. Nato has deployed AWACs surveillance planes over Poland, sent ships to the Baltic, and increased the naval presence in the Black Sea, he said.…