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‘Complacent’ NATO not prepared for Russian threat

A Ukrainian soldier gestures as he controls traffic on July 31, 2014 at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC

LONDON: NATO would not be prepared for a Russian attack on one of its members, British lawmakers said Thursday, calling for more equipment and troops to be sent to the Baltic States, which, they said, were particularly vulnerable.

Parliament’s Defence Select Committee said events in Crimea and eastern Ukraine had revealed “alarming deficiencies” in NATO’s preparedness and should be a “wake-up call.”

The military alliance has stepped up exercises in eastern Europe since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March. Ukraine is not a member of NATO.

NATOmember Poland, Ukraine’s neighbor, has said it wants the alliance to permanently station troops in the region as a guarantee against Russian intervention. But most NATO members are reluctant because of the cost and the risk of further antagonizing Moscow.

Britain and NATO have been too focused on counter-insurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and radical reform is needed to be able to respond to current threats, the committee said.

“NATO has been too complacent about the threat from Russia, and it is not well prepared,” said Rory Stewart, chairman of the committee, made up of lawmakers from the three main political parties.

“The instability in Russia, President [Vladimir] Putin’s world view and the failure of the West to respond actively in Ukraine means that we now have to address urgently the possibility, however small, of Russia repeating such tactics elsewhere. In particular, the NATO member states in the Baltic are vulnerable,” he said.

A spokeswoman for NATO said the alliance’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had made it clear that NATO needed to adapt to the changed security environment.

Britain this week said it would send 1,350 military personnel and more than 350 vehicles to Poland for a NATO exercise in October, aimed at reassuring its allies in eastern Europe. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said more NATO countries should follow suit.

Substantial Russian minorities and the influence of Russian media make Estonia and Latvia particularly vulnerable to the type of information warfare that the committee said had been used to incite disturbances in Ukraine.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2014, on page 11.

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