EU, US unlikely to intervene on Ukraine’s behalf in Crimea

(By Deutsche Welle) With the immediate threat of a civil conflict in Kyiv averted, Ukraine’s crisis has now shifted to the Russian-majority region of Crimea. The region could become a flashpoint between Moscow and the West.

President Vladimir Putin placed combat troops in western Russia on alert Wednesday (26.02.2014), amid rising tensions between pro- and anti-Kremlin protesters in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, where Moscow stations its Black Sea naval fleet.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers have reiterated their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

“NATO allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in central and eastern Europe and on the continent as a whole,” the defense ministers said in a joint statement after their meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US did not view the volatile political situation in Ukraine as a Cold War-style confrontation with Russia.

“This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East…,” Kerry said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Washington. “This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future,” Kerry added.

But there’s very little that the US and EU can actually do to help maintain Ukraine’s territorial integrity, according to Joerg Forbrig, an Eastern Europe expert with the German Marshall Fund. He cites the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, in which Moscow’s military intervention led to the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Tbilisi’s control. While the West engaged diplomatically, it was unable to prevent the division of Georgia.

“The West has very limited means of enforcing this message,” Forbrig told DW. “What we can clearly rule out is that the West would rush to the help of the Ukrainian government to safeguard this integrity.”

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NATO allies warn US on too much defense scrimping

(By Deutsche Welle) While the Pentagon tightens its financial belt, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has hinted at reducing American troop levels in Europe. However, Washington must reconcile a smaller force with traditional NATO obligations.

With US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the Obama administration is promising to cut spending. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced cuts to the tune of  $78 billion (57 billion euros). And these cuts may impact what Gates has called an “excess force structure in Europe.”

Once meant to hold the Soviet Union at bay, the Atlantic alliance is redefining its mission on a continent now largely united and at peace. In the future, a smaller US military presence in Europe will focus on rapidly deploying elsewhere in the world. However, Washington must balance this smaller, more cost-effective force with its traditional security obligations as a NATO member.

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