President Barack Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday. Obama is on a one day trip to Belgium to shore up commitments he received from allies in The Hague, Netherlands, to reassure Eastern Europeans members of NATO that the alliance will stand by them and to make a larger point about European security.
BRUSSELS — The United States plans to join with other NATO nations in increasing ground and naval forces in Eastern Europe as part of the military alliance’s response to Russia’s incursion in Ukraine, the White House said Wednesday.
The specifics of the NATO plan were still being finalized, including the size of the force increase. Rather than significantly boosting U.S. military presence in the region, the move seemed aimed instead at showing symbolic support for NATO members near Russia’s borders.
President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said NATO was aiming to provide “a continuous presence to reassure our allies.” While he would not detail specific countries where the additional resources would be sent, he noted that the U.S. was particularly focused on efforts to bolster Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Rhodes briefed reporters as Obama traveled to Rome from Brussels, where he met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as well as European Union leaders. In a speech from the heart of Europe, Obama declared the crisis in Ukraine a global “moment of testing.”
Obama appealed to Europeans to retrench behind the war-won ideals of freedom and human dignity, declaring that people voicing those values will ultimately triumph in Ukraine. Painting a historical arc across the major global clashes of the last century and beyond, he said young people born today come into a world more devoid of conflict and replete with freedom than at any time in history, even if that providence isn’t fully appreciated.
The president also urged the 28-nation NATO alliance to make good on its commitment to the collective security that has fostered prosperity in the decades since the Cold War concluded.
“We must never forget that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom,” Obama said, adding that the Ukraine crisis has neither easy answers nor a military solution. “But at this moment, we must meet the challenge to our ideals, to our very international order with strength and conviction.”
Calm in Europe has been upended by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foray into the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Defying the global community, Moscow annexed that peninsula this month, stoking fears among Russia’s other neighbors as Europe was plunged back into an East-West mentality that many had thought was left behind at the end of the last century.
In response to the crisis, the U.S. already has taken some steps to bolster cooperation with NATO, including stepping up joint aviation training with Polish forces. The Pentagon also has increased American participation in NATO’s air policing mission in its Baltic countries.
Obama came to Europe intent on shoring up commitments from allies, but also to make a larger point about European security a quarter-century after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In a nod to the U.S. perception that America has borne too much of the burden for NATO members’ security, Obama said he wanted to see every NATO partner “chip in” for mutual defense. He said members should examine their defense plans to make sure they reflect current threats.MORE IN Wire News
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