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The discussion absent in Europe regarding the refugee crisis

By Hossam Shaker | MEMO | September 1, 2015

Fifty thousand refugees have arrived recently in Europe and many more are on the way. They include Palestinians reliving their original catastrophe — the Nakba of 1948 — as they search for shelter. Hundreds, even thousands, have lost their lives in the process.

Until 2011, nearly half a million Palestinian refugees lived in Syria. It was generally understood that they were living the most stable lives compared to their compatriots. Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp outside of Palestine, was described as “the capital of the Palestinian Diaspora”, and it basically became a residential extension of Damascus before it was turned into a scene of ruin, death and hunger by the Syrian conflict.

The tragedy that hit Syria has dispelled all illusions, though, with the realisation that the Palestinian refugee communities are actually extremely fragile and very quickly pay the price for any turbulence and crises in the host countries. This has happened before in Lebanon, Kuwait and Iraq.

Compared to the masses of refugees now flocking to Europe, the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees fleeing from Syria has its own characteristics. This lies in the fact that they are forced to endure a new “exodus” and suffering as they seek a place of safety, even though their homeland is little more than an hour’s drive from their refugee camps. The Palestinian families must make the long, perilous journey across borders, coasts and mountains, meeting the outrageous demands of the greedy, criminal gangs of human traffickers in order to reach Europe.

However, Europe is so preoccupied by the refugee crisis that it does not care about the essence of the problem that created it. As far as the Palestinians coming from Syria are concerned, the issue is fairly clear, so why doesn’t the European Union work towards the most logical and practical solutions, such as returning them to their own land, at least temporarily? Why is such a discussion missing from Europe’s meetings held to figure out ways to contain the crises on its borders?

Over a third of a million Palestinians, many of whom are refugees driven from their homes and camps, live in Europe. We are witnessing new chapters in their suffering; these human beings whom the Israelis have forbidden from returning to their land from which they were expelled in 1948 and 1967. They are not even allowed to visit their country, in a clear violation of international laws and conventions.

Logic dictates that we empower the Palestinian refugees with their legitimate right to return to their land and homes, which are nearby. If not, they will continue to be forced to look for safe havens across continents after disaster-ridden journeys. There is no doubt that a huge part of the responsibility for this lies with Europe, which created the historical conditions that resulted in the tragedy of the Palestinian people in the first place.

EU officials talk about the importance of linking aid to Eastern European countries with their willingness to accept their share of refugees, and there are even those who call for linking negotiations about joining the European Union to the countries’ treatment of refugees. Isn’t such discourse also required with the “Israeli partner” which benefits from many European economic, educational and military privileges and treaties?

Why is Europe unable to even think about using its influence to put pressure on the Israeli government to activate the Palestinian right of return, which was endorsed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194? The Palestinians, many of whom still have the keys to their homes in occupied Palestine, have the right to live in their homeland. The routes to their cities, towns and villages are well-known to those who want to ask about them, and maps are readily available.

If the European Union and the international community do not address the core of this issue by reviving and implementing the legitimate Palestinian right of return, then thousands will continue to head for Europe and many will die along the way. Which of these two possibilities does the EU and the rest of the world prefer?

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Deployment of Missiles in Europe May Lead to Russia’s Exit From INF

Sputnik – 05.06.2015

Russia is fully complying with commitments made under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and does not want to withdraw from it, Viktor Ozerov, the Chairman of the Federation Council on Defense and Security, told RIA Novosti.

However, if the United States decides to put its missiles in Eastern Europe, Russia will seriously consider pulling out of the agreement, Ozerov said.

Earlier, AP reported that the Obama Administration plans to deploy land-based missiles in Eastern Europe that “could pre-emptively destroy the Russian weapons” in response to Moscow’s alleged violation of the INF treaty.

If Washington deploys its missiles in Eastern Europe, its objective wouldn’t be to target sites in the Middle East, but to fire at Russia from a close distance, Ozerov said, adding that in this case Russia will have to respond with force.

“Russia has enough strength and means for an adequate response — starting from the withdrawal from the INF treaty and deploying “Iskanders” (short-range ballistic missile system, also known by its NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) along our Western borders,” Ozerov told RIA Novosti.

The Chairman of the Defense Committee stressed that Russia is fully complying with the INF treaty, and although Washington says Moscow violated the agreement in the past, it was not able to provide factual evidence of that.

As long as the United States sticks to its commitments under the treaty, Russia is willing to respect the agreement as well, Ozerov said, adding that it’s pointless to blackmail Russia by threatening to deploy missiles in Eastern Europe. Instead, it is a much better idea to try to find a partnership-based agreement with Russia.

The INF treaty was signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987. The agreement eliminates all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate range, between 500 and 5,000 km (300 — 3,400 miles).

In recent years, both the United States and Russia accused each other of violating terms of the treaty. In 2012, Washington accused Moscow of violating the agreement by allegedly launching a cruise missile from an “Iskander” missile system. However, the US government was not able to provide any factual evidence of their claim. Russia, on the other hand, said US drones were also a violation of the treaty.

See also:

US Might Add Missiles to Its Military Buildup in Europe to Counter Russia

Russia Will Respond to NATO’s Missile Defense Buildup in Europe – General

June 5, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

After Ukraine: Are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary Veering Off The NATO/EU Reservation?

By Christine Stone | Ron Paul Institute | December 15, 2014

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Prague “red card” protest, November 2014

Despite the firmness shown by the EU’s biggest players when it comes to sanctioning Putin’s Russia, lower down the pecking order some member states are not happy. Unlike the most craven and obedient puppets — the Baltic States and Poland — it took some arm twisting to get the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary to agree to punish Moscow for annexing Crimea. Each country is dependent for much of its energy on Russia with which there are also valued economic ties. Why rock the boat? Despite hyperbole claiming that Vladimir Putin was intent on taking them over and rebuilding the iron curtain, in reality, Russia has been an unproblematic neighbor for a quarter of a century.

Could these ripples of discontent with the famed Washington consensus develop into something more troubling for both the  US and Brussels? What can they do about it? All three countries are members of both NATO and the EU. Promoting regime change inside the Euro-Atlantic tent surely becomes more problematic. Or, does it? Let us examine each case separately and see what the auguries bode.

On 17th November 2014, it was drab and raining in Prague as the Czechs celebrated 25 years since the so-called “velvet revolution,” unlike the classic freezing, East European winter day of 17th November 1989. Demonstrations to mark the event were slated to take place and a mass of candles filled the passage way on Národní Třida (National Street) where student “Martin Šmid” died at the hands of the police, an event that was said to have triggered the collapse of the communist regime. But, hold on: it soon emerged that Martin Šmid didn’t exist; he had been invented by the Czechoslovak security services, the St. B. (Státní Bezpečnost) as part of a ploy to bring a new, reformed post-communist regime to power.

Emoting over a death that never took place seems weird but, in a way it sums up the banality that lays at the heart of all things connected with the “velvet” events. This was only reinforced later in the day when a group of anti-capitalist protesters snaked its way through the city centre wearing papier maché masks, some bearing the image of the evil Putin, others the reviled (at least, by the local cogniscenti) Czech president, Miloš Zeman. A few Ukrainian flags brought up the rear. Other banners denounced Ecuador’s left wing president, Rafael Correa, hardly a household name in Prague.[i] As the hundred or so protesters passed the Rudolfinum concert hall, a group of elderly rock musicians with lank, grey hair plugged away at some ancient protest songs watched by a handful of leather clad biker types.

Over the river, at Prague castle, a more serious group had been gathering during the afternoon: students bent on delivering a message to President Zeman that it was time to go. They did this by leaving a trail of red cards inside the presidential palace complex (the red card is used in football matches to send a player off the pitch). Several hundred protesters ended up under the ceremonial balcony demanding Zeman leave. Fluttering over the courtyard was the presidential flag denoting that Zeman was in residence. It is difficult to imagine such protests taking place in front of the White House or 10 Downing Street but, no one tried to remove the students who did not, to be fair, behave in a violent or intimidating manner. However, there had been scuffles earlier in the day at a “velvet revolution” ceremony attended by various European dignitaries, including Germany’s President Gauck. When students pelted Zeman (who was protected by an umbrella) with eggs one misdirected and managed to hit Gauck.

What, then, has caused the animus against Zeman? The president is a rather shambolic figure who, his detractors allege, besmirches his office by drinking heavily and speaking “off the cuff” (he even smokes and is regularly photographed with a lighted cigarette as if to highlight his malevolence).

As long time leader of the Czech Social Democrats and a former prime minister, Zeman earned the ire of the chattering classes by joining a coalition with former president Vaclav Klaus between 1998 and 2002. By then, Klaus had developed a healthy scepticism towards the EU and both men opposed US sponsored wars in Kosovo and later Iraq which led to their being anathematized by Brussels and Washington and, by extension, the local bien pensants, whose hero ex-dissident Vaclav Havel was the first Czech to advocate bombarding Belgrade since the Good Soldier Sweijk in 1914! When Klaus’s term ended in 2012, such people assumed that their candidate, Prince Kari Schwarzenberg, would be effortlessly elected to replace him. However, even though the Czech Republic is the repository of much Hapsburg charm in the form of castles and cultural artifacts, the electorate consists of a majority of post- communist bumpkins unlikely to feel represented by a Knight of the Golden Fleece. 54.8 percent voted for Zeman while 45.2 percent (mainly in Prague) chose Schwarzenberg.

As the role is mainly ceremonial, the president could have been ignored but Zeman has chosen to speak out on numerous occasions and in ways to infuriate his imperial masters. He has regularly demanded normal relations with Putin’s Russia, called the Ukrainian crisis a “civil war” and then, in a radio interview categorised Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a criminal while reminding listeners of the double entendre involved in the moniker “Pussy Riot.” Despite their usual boasts of über-liberal sexual mores, the intellectual elite of Prague expressed outrage at this outburst of vulgarity. “They don’t like him because he’s naughty,” a young reporter from Czech Television said of the student protesters. “How can we have a president like that,” they moan. “He must go”.

Added to their woes has been the seemingly inexorable rise of a new political party, Ano 11[ii], which came a close second in the 2013 parliamentary election and is now in coalition with the Social Democrats. Many people take it for granted that Ano’s founder, the billionaire Andrej Babiš, now the country’s minister of finance, will end up as prime minister; the party did well in autumn, 2014 local elections. What, then, is wrong with Ano 11?

According to the Czech media (and the Euro-American oriented elite) Babiš is a Berlusconi clone, boss of one of the Czech Republic’s largest conglomerates, Agrofert, who, like Berlusconi, is also buying up media outlets. Ano is composed of old secret policemen and headed by Informer-in-Chief, Babiš.[iii] A Slovak by origin, Babiš took the allegations to court and was cleared, but the rumours have persisted as has the intention to appeal. However, it seems clear that, apart from the twitterings of the Prague elite, ordinary Czechs are not particularly concerned by such allegations nearly 30 years after the Communists fell from power. Anyway, many of the alleged Ano nest of spies and informers were too young at the time of their “service” to have been very important cogs in the machine. All this is a smoke screen. Babiš has trodden on various entrenched local interests. He has also supported the extension of nuclear power in the Czech Republic which has angered the EU’s generously subsidised renewables lobby which probably sees the troubles with Russian gas as a golden opportunity to cash in.

Are things any better, more reliable from the Euro-Atlantic perspective, in neighbouring Slovakia? The answer is: not entirely. Slovakia has thrown up politicians frowned upon by the West since its independence was secured by Vladimir Mečiar in 1993. Milan Knažko, an old “sixty eighter” and sometime dissident feared that all the elderly would have to die off before Mečiar finally exited the stage. “Slovaks are stupid,” he said. But, it took twenty years to eliminate Mečiar as a political force only for him to be replaced by another “populist,” Robert Fico, whose leftish Smer (Direction) party won an overall victory in the last Slovak election in 2012. Fico has criticised the EU’s sanctions on Russia and seems to have been forced against his will to implement them, as well as allowing the reverse flow of gas to Ukraine from Slovakia’s own reserves. Of course, his hands are tied as Slovakia is a member of the EU and the single currency. Nevertheless, the empire demands 100 percent obedience, nothing less. Fico stood as a candidate in the March 2014 presidential elections but was surprisingly beaten by a maverick outsider, businessman Andrej Kiska, who made what is described as his “fortune” in hire purchase. Unlike Babiš, his business back ground is regarded as a plus rather than an exercise in predatory capitalism. He is popular with the elites both at home and in Brussels (unlike Fico) and will be an ideal advocate for pushing Slovakia in the “right” direction, for example, by recognising Kosovan independence, something it has refused so far to do to avoid trouble with its restless Hungarian minority.

But, nothing said or done by politicians in Prague and Bratislava equal the level of disobedience that has been coming from further down the Danube in Hungary. There, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has adopted an openly defiant position on a range of issues that have infuriated the EU. But even more dangerously for his long term survival, he has fallen into the cross hairs of Washington. Since summer 2014, demonstrations regularly take place on some pretext or other against the Orban government and long-term regime change watchers can only debate how the situation will finally be resolved. Supporters are confident Orban will survive as he is “popular,” but that never stopped the engine of regime change. Viktor Yanukovich’s party handily won elections in 2012 but he was deposed a year later; the hugely popular Hugo Chavez and Muammar Gaddafi both ended up dead.

Viktor Orban has come a long way from the days of his Soros scholarship at Pembroke College, Oxford. His party, Fidesz, was a classic middle of the road liberal outfit – a proud member of the Liberal International where it now sits somewhat uneasily. However, Hungarians have always been more nationalistic than many Europeans as manifested in their almost unique language; their sense of national identity and solidarity goes back a long time. When Fidesz  won an overwhelming majority in the 2010 parliamentary elections, Viktor Orban, now prime minister, started to put Hungary first. In the wake of the 2008 financial collapse he threw out the IMF and cancelled Hungary’s debt repayments in foreign currency thus lowering the pain for ordinary Hungarians. In 2011, he expelled Monsanto – Hungary has banned the use of GM crops – lowered fuel prices and, in the same year, changed the voting system to a mixed majority and proportional system modeled on Germany. A new constitution has reduced the number of MPs by half. Something must have gone right because in spring 2014’s parliamentary election, Fidesz again won an overall majority. All this took place against the back drop of a broken political order with most Hungarian parties, particularly on the left, scarred by corruption and failure. The ultra-right Jobbik remained as the only functioning opposition party, something unappealing to most right thinking people, including in Hungary.

Accusations of Orban’s “authoritarianism” have gone on for some time, bolstered by a growing number of NGOs in Budapest (mainly foreign funded and backed) as well as tame academics like Princeton’s Kim Lane Scheppele who has tied herself in knots trying to show that Fidesz’s successive victories at the polls (in 2014 alone the party overwhelmingly won parliamentary, local and European elections) were really failures! Perhaps this might just rumble along, going nowhere while – as in Prague – providing low level political gossip for the chattering classes in Budapest to feed on, were it not for Orban’s rather bold foreign policy moves in the past year.

In January 2014 he announced that a deal had been reached with Russia to fund the expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear facility. As the Ukrainian events unfolded and energy security came under the spotlight, this could have been viewed as strategic foresight. Not so; the Americans were now very angry. On top of this, when sanctions came up for discussion after the Crimean annexation, Orban baulked at implementing them: “Why should Hungary ‘shoot itself in the foot,’” he said. Like Fico, he dragged his heels over providing Ukraine with reverse flow gas from Hungary’s reserves. As the hate campaign against Putin entered the stratosphere, Viktor remained committed to participating in the South Stream gas project which only came undone when Bulgaria, the weakest link in the chain, pulled out followed by Russia itself redirecting the pipeline to Turkey. According to observers on the ground in Budapest, Orban was now being “warned” by the Cosa Nostra in Washington that he was going “too far.”

At this time, Hungary was without a  US ambassador. Colleen Bell, a producer of TV soap operas, was stuck in the congressional vetting process, so finger wagging was left to the Chargé d’Affaires in Budapest, André Goodfriend. Goodfriend has an impressive CV for such a lowly diplomat and his excursions into Hungarian political life, including the now formulaic support for LGBT events, have been high profile culminating in the announcement that six members of the Hungarian government were to be sanctioned and prevented from visiting the US. No names were mentioned but rumors abounded as to the whys and wherefores of the decision.

What to do? With a hopelessly divided and weak opposition given the implosion of the Hungarian Socialists who backed EU-demanded austerity all the way, and with the paramilitary, ultra-nationalist Jobbik as the only substantial alternative to Orban’s party, all that remains is to split Fidesz in the hope of producing something more compliant. On 23rd October, 2014, as if on cue, the BBC’s long time Budapest correspondent, Nick Thorpe, reported that “cracks” were appearing in the ruling party although he failed to put any substance behind the allegation, or name names.[iv] Otherwise, there are the NGOs of which there are numerous as well as blogs and online publications which trash Orban and the Fidesz government. In September 2014, the authorities in Budapest cracked down on the Ökotárs Foundation, which disbursed grants to local NGOs from Norway. In a way, this was quite a clever ruse as it followed an expose in the New York Times detailing Norway’s many involvements in influence peddling via NGO in Washington.[v]

Do these expressions of dissent in Prague, Bratislava and Budapest mean that the Euro-Atlanticist order that has ruled the post-communist world so comprehensively since the early 1990s is under threat? Not quite: in the end, even Orban caved in to Brussels’ demand for sanctions against Russia. He still maintains that Hungary is a loyal EU and NATO member. Ditto, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. But, there does seem to be a change in the air. After years filled with allegations of corruption, most political parties in Central Europe are morally bankrupt and derided by local populations. Massaging election results is becoming more difficult when parties acceptable to Brussels and Washington can barely make single percentage points. In the Czech Republic, Ano 11 is heading in the same direction as Fidesz with the prospect of getting overall control of parliament in the next parliamentary elections. Another headache for Washington looms if that happens.

These unexpected shifts away from former subservience in the Central European heartland of Euro-conformity may explain why many of the old anti-communists from the era of perestroika and glasnost are being brought out and dusted down. On 11th December, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) “the only US think-tank dedicated to the study of Central and Eastern Europe” announced it was beefing up its membership with many formidable regime change figures including Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Anne Applebaum, Carl Bildt,Eliot A. Cohen,and Timothy Garton Ash.[vi] It is hard to see these old regime change advocates changing much without resources to put into play, but remember the successful application of their policies after 1989 resulted in socio-economic collapse and mass emigration from Poland and Baltic States where they were most influential. Does Central Europe want to repeat that implosion by following these horsemen of the apocalypse? It is unlikely that Central Europeans other than the sponsored demonstrators be asked.

Notes:
[i] The US embassy was listed at the top of the backers of the protest in a leaflet handed out  as the procession marched by. This so-called “Prague Maidan” was an obvious imitation of the protests in Kiev’s main square a year ago which toppled the Ukrainian president.

[ii] Ano is short for the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (Akce nespokojených občanů). “Ano” also  means “yes” in Czech. The party was founded in 2011.

[iii] Fidesz has also been accused of co-opting  Hungary’s former secret policemen

[iv] Nick Thorpe “Hungary’s Fidesz: Cracks emerge in ruling party” BBC 23rd October, 2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-29740030

[v] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/us/politics/foreign-powers-buy-influence-at-think-tanks.html?_r=0

[vi] See, the CEPA press release:  http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/1111079/ea59c56522/ARCHIVE

Christine Stone is co-author of Post-Communist Georgia: A Short History.

December 31, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia wants answers on NATO troop movement in Eastern Europe

RT | April 3, 2014

Russia expects detailed explanations from NATO regarding expanding its military presence in Eastern Europe, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The statement comes after the NATO bloc announced boosting its military presence in the area.

“We have addressed questions to the North Atlantic military alliance. We are not only expecting answers, but answers that will be based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on,” Lavrov told reports at a joint briefing with Kazakhstan’s FM Yerlan Idrisov.

However, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had not received any questions from Moscow. In response he called Russian accusations about NATO’s actions “propaganda and disinformation.”

He denied that NATO was violating the 1997 treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation by boosting its forces in Eastern Europe.

The accusations by Russia, he said, are based “on a wrong interpretation” of a fundamental act of the 1997 treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation, in which NATO vowed to provide collective defense by using reinforcements rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces at regular bases.

Lavrov’s statement came after the NATO chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the bloc will deploy more troops to Eastern Europe. According to him, NATO is considering “revised operational plans, military maneuvers and adequate troop reinforcements.” This military buildup was approved by many eastern European countries. On April 1, Polish PM Donald Tusk praised the NATO presence in the country.

After the announcement of deploying troops in Ukraine, NATO also said that it is suspending all military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, a move that was immediately blasted by Moscow who said that neither Russia, not NATO would benefit from such a step. Russia called this move reminiscent of Cold War language.

Lavrov also called upon the world’s powers to abide by the rules of the Montreux Convention, which allows a warship of any non-Black Sea country to stay in the region for only 21 day.

“US warships have recently extended their presence in the Black Sea several times,” he said, “This extension didn’t always obey the rules of the Montreux Convention.”

The statement comes after the USS Truxtun destroyer started a military exercises in March with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies a few hundred miles from Russian forces of the Black Sea Fleet.

Meanwhile, Lavrov also responded to Western criticism over the presence of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, saying that the EU and Kiev should not stir up a conflict surrounding Russian drills launched in the south of the country.

According to the Russian FM, Russia had the right to move forces on its territory, and furthermore the troops would return to their permanent bases after completing military exercises.

“There are no restrictions on Russia’s troop displacement on Russian territory,” he said.

In March, Russia’s Defense Ministry launched artillery drills in the southern military district, which involved some 8,500 troops and a large amount of hardware. It coincided with war games conducted by the country’s Airborne Troops.

Although Russia has repeatedly denied any troop build-up on the borders with Ukraine, as well as plans to send any troops into Ukraine, the West has been turning a deaf ear to the claims.

Lavrov also commented on the crisis situation in Ukraine, saying that all its regions should be taking part in the constitutional process.

“We are all convinced that constitutional reform should be proper, not “cosmetic,” it is necessary to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and overcome the crisis,” he added.

According to Lavrov, it is necessary to remind the Ukrainian authorities that constitutional reform was written in the February-21 agreement on the crisis settlement, which was signed by ousted president Yanukovich and opposition leaders, including Arseny Yatsenyuk and Vladimir Klitschko, on ending the political crisis in the country. The agreement was witnessed by EU foreign ministers from Germany and Poland.

April 3, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO to promote ties with Ukraine, boost military presence in Eastern Europe

RT | March 31, 2014

NATO will strengthen relations with Ukraine and send more troops to Eastern Europe, the bloc’s outgoing chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said. The Ukrainian coup-imposed foreign minister is to fly to Brussels to take part in Ukraine-NATO talks.

Days after seconding US President Barack Obama’s statements on “ensuring a regular NATO presence” in “vulnerable” countries, NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen spoke to the German media detailing the alliance’s plans in Eastern Europe.

Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, Rasmussen said that NATO’s expansion in the region has been “one of the greatest success stories of our time.” However, the alliance’s “task is not yet complete,” the NATO chief added.

NATO’s partnership with Ukraine has been getting “ever stronger,” Rasmussen noted, accusing Russia of violating the country’s right to “freely determine its own destiny,” as well as its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia have already sought NATO membership and are already working on reforms to achieve it, he said.

“We are now considering revised operational plans, military manoeuvres and adequate troop reinforcements. We will, for example, relocate more aircrafts to the Baltic States,” Rasmussen told Focus magazine.

While this does not apply to Ukraine, which, according to the NATO chief, does not see membership a priority “in the foreseeable future,” NATO will help to “reform” Ukraine’s armed forces.

At the same time, NATO seeks “diplomatic solution to the crisis” in Ukraine, Rasmussen said, and will “keep the channels of communication with Moscow open.” This comes days after the alliance’s chief tweeted that NATO is to “review viability” of its relationship with Russia.

The Ukrainian coup-imposed government is set to discuss cooperation with NATO as early as next week, according to Kiev-picked acting foreign minister Andrey Deshchytsa.

Deshchytsa told journalists on Saturday he will take part in the extraordinary session of Ukraine-NATO Commission in Brussels on April 1-2, will “hold meetings and consultations” with US and UK foreign ministers, as well as attend the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 2-3.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been holding an unexpected meeting on Ukraine in Paris. Kerry abruptly changed his travel route and decided to meet his Russian counterpart on Saturday after speaking with Lavrov over the phone. The latest round of Russian-US diplomacy over Ukraine started with President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama discussing the situation in the Eastern European country by phone on Friday.

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment