NATO Secretary General discusses collective defence, defence investment and Ukraine crisis in Prague
The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed the Ukraine crisis with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Boshulav Sobotka during a visit to Prague on Thursday (10 April). “From Prague, I have this message to Russia. You have a choice. To stop blaming others for your own actions. To stop massing your troops. To stop escalating this crisis and start engaging in a genuine dialogue. If Russia is serious about a dialogue, the first step should be to pull back its troops”, the Secretary General said at a press conference with Prime Minister Sobotka.
Visiting the Czech Republic as it celebrates the 15th anniversary of its accession to NATO, Mr Fogh Rasmussen praised the Czech Republic’s commitment to the Alliance: “Your troops have made a valuable contribution to our missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo. You are fully involved in our Smart Defence efforts to develop modern military capabilities together.”
Referring to the crisis in Ukraine, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said:
“For the first time since countries like the Czech Republic won their freedom, and the Cold War ended, we see one state trying to grab part of another’s territory at gunpoint. As I speak, some 40,000 Russian troops are massed along Ukraine’s borders. Not training, but ready for combat. We have seen the satellite images, day after day. Russia is stirring up ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine and provoking unrest. And Russia is using its military might to dictate that Ukraine should become a federal, neutral state. That is a decision which only Ukraine, as a sovereign state, can make. Nobody else”.
Mr Fogh Rasmussen stressed that NATO’s commitment to collective defence is unwavering and that the Alliance is taking legitimate steps to deal with the instability that Russia’s illegitimate actions have created.
Speaking about NATO’s Wales Summit in September, the Secretary General called on all NATO Allies to keep their capabilities strong and enhance training for their forces. “Above all, we must stop the decline of our defence budgets. And start reinvesting in our security. Investing in defence has a cost. But we see that insecurity has a much higher price”, he said.