Eastward NATO Marches as Ukraine Accuses Russia of 'Invasion'
The Kiev government in Ukraine accused the Russian army of invading its eastern border on Wednesday, even though no media outlets reporting on the claims appeared able to independently verify the accusations.
Though it can routinely be difficult to verify facts inside a war zone, there has been a pattern of errant reporting—including a consistent deference to the U.S. government’s narrative of events—in the western press when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine, especially regarding Russia’s role.
According to Reuters:
The New York Times reporting on the fighting Wednesday said that Ukraine and U.S. officials characterized the fighting as a “stealth invasion.” Citing those officials, the newspaper reported that “tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but also a wide section of territory[…]” However, even the reporting from the ground offered no concrete evidence to verify that the advance or shelling witnessed was, in fact, coming from Russian troops who crossed the international border.
In Washington, D.C., State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said evidence indicates that “a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway,” but offered journalists no concrete evidence to support the claims. Senior “American officials” reportedly showed the New York Times images of what they claimed were Russian artillery units inside Ukraine, but have yet to make such documents public.
In separate but related developments that began on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the city of Minsk, Belarus in their first face-to-face meeting since Poroshenko was elected earlier this year. Meanwhile, as the meeting in Minsk was getting underway, the head of NATO took the opportunity to voice plans by the European alliance to expand its military footprint in the Baltics and other countries in eastern Europe.
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In comments made to European news outlets and published just ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen—who has been consistently hawkish against Russia throughout the recent turmoil in Ukraine—said that a “permanent” and expanded military presence is the best way to counter Moscow and that such plans would be put forward at the upcoming NATO summit scheduled to take place in Cardiff, Wales next week.
As quoted by the Guardian newspaper, Rasmussen told the selected journalists:
In an email to Common Dreams, Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University and an expert on Russian and Cold War history, characterized Rasmussen’s comments—in the context of current events—as “reckless beyond reason.”
The expansion of NATO bases in Poland or other Baltic states along the Russian border is one of the most strident and controversial topics when it comes to the re-emerging Cold War relationship between the U.S., European nations, and Russia. As the Moscow Times reported on Wednesday, “The move [by NATO] effectively returns the state of European security back to the Cold War era, when the collective defense ministry alliance that came into being in 1949 acted as a deterrent and main rival to the Warsaw Pact nations led by the Soviet Union.” The newspaper continued:
The Russian-based newspaper also interview Cold War experts—from “across the political spectrum”—who all agreed that the Kremlin’s response to Rasmussen’s promise to move NATO bases, troops, and weapons to the east was easily foreseen and likely the goal of the comments. Predictable or not, however, those who spoke to the times said the development significantly raises the stakes for regional conflict.
“The problem is that the Kremlin dissolved the Warsaw Pact alliance of its own accord and did not represent a threat to the West in the 1990s, while NATO recklessly started to move toward Moscow,” Alexei Arbatov, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, told the Times.
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