NATO Military Chief Philip Breedlove Flags Ukraine Risks

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s top military commander said Sunday that not delivering weapons to Ukraine carries risks and registered continued concerns about the implementation of the war-torn country’s cease-fire agreement signed in February.

Local men try to push and pull a cart across a bridge that was severely damaged in a shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Saturday.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove reiterated the need to counter Russian diplomatic, economic and military tools being used to back separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“So we, I think, in the West should consider all our tools in reply. Could it be destabilizing? The answer is yes. Also inaction could be destabilizing,” he said at the Brussels Forum meeting of the German Marshall Fund.

“So I think that’s the other question that our nation should look at. Is inaction an appropriate action?” 

U.S. officials have said the Obama administration is considering delivering weapons, including possible antitank missiles and more sophisticated radar systems, to Ukrainian government forces, who are seeking to hold back the separatists in a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people over the past year.

But the U.S. has held off supplying lethal aid amid opposition from most European countries including Germany and France, and a lull in violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia continually lies and denies it is supplying and supporting the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Gen. Breedlove echoed NATO’s concerns about implementation of the cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk, especially on the destination of heavy weapons that have been withdrawn from combat zones. 

“We do see the weapons moving. We do not know that they are moved off the battlefield but we know that they are moving,” he said.

“We continue to see disturbing evidence of air defense, command and control, resupply equipments coming across a completely porous border, so there are concerns whether Minsk is being followed or not.”

Gen. Breedlove also addressed the Russian threat to Denmark if the country joins the missile defense system.

“This is just the next step,” he said, noting previous “great pressure” from Russia on Romania and Poland.

“Anyone else who wants to join into this defensive capability will come under this diplomatic and political pressure.”

Speaking earlier at the Brussels Forum, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said NATO faces a critical credibility test over implementing its pledges at last September’s summit in Wales to improve the alliance’s readiness and responsiveness, including a new rapid reaction force to counter Russia’s threat in the east of Ukraine.

Mr. Komorowski said NATO members are in “a long and uneasy wait to follow whether those decisions are implemented...It is about the credibility of the alliance.”

Mr. Komorowski warned that making concessions to Russia “in the face of violence” in Ukraine could merely encourage further aggression.

He described Western sanctions on Russia as “relatively mild.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal