John Kerry calls for ‘robust’ NATO posture near Russia

May 20, 2016 7:49 am

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) walks with Secretary of State prior to a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on May 19, 2016. (AFP photo)

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a political dialog between NATO and but said Washington will refrain from normal relations with Moscow until the Minsk agreement is implemented.
Speaking Thursday at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Kerry said NATO was building a “robust” defensive posture on its eastern flank.
“NATO is open to a political dialogue with Russia but we will refrain from business as usual until the Minsk commitments are fully implemented,” the top US diplomat said.
The Minsk II truce deal, reached at a summit in the Belarusian capital city of Minsk last year, introduced measures such as a ceasefire, the pullout of heavy weapons, and constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of the year.
The shaky deal has, however, failed to end the deadly violence in the mainly Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine, with both sides trading accusations of breaching a ceasefire agreement which officially went into effect on February 15.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted between government forces and pro-Russia fighters demanding greater autonomy following the overthrow of the country’s former President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
“A key aspect of our response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine is to meet the Wales commitments on defense investments and to continue to strengthen our deterrence capabilities through a more robust forward presence,” Kerry said.
Ties between US and Russia have been tense over the crisis in Ukraine where the West is accusing Moscow of having a hand in the militancy in the country’s east.
Russia has been targeted by a series of sanctions imposed by the and European Union for allegations that Moscow is arming and supporting pro-Russian forces fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Last week, officials from the US and NATO declared a missile system based in southern Romania operational. The missiles’ activation marked the penultimate step in the completion of a so-called missile shield, which Washington proposed nearly a decade ago.
On Friday, also broke ground on a missile system site in Poland. Upon completion in late 2018, the umbrella would be stretching from Greenland to the Azores region in western Portugal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the US deployment of the missile system as an attempt by Washington to increase its nuclear potential, adding that the complex deployed in Poland near Russia may be easily used for firing short- and mid-range missiles.
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