BRUSSELS, June 3 (RIA Novosti) – NATO does not see military action as a right way to solve the crisis in Ukraine and favors political and diplomatic settlement, the alliance’s chief said Tuesday.
“We are not discussing military options. We do believe that the right way forward is a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in response to a question about further NATO steps in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
“A first and very important step in that direction would be for Russia to de-escalate the situation first and foremost by a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian borders,” he said, adding the alliance had seen “signs of the start of such withdrawal.”
Rasmussen claimed however that there were allegedly still “tens of thousands of Russian troops along the Ukrainian borders,” noting that massive troop presence was, in his view, not justified.
The statement about Russian troops purportedly lingering on the Ukrainian border came despite Ukraine’s border guard service chief Mykola Lytvyn saying earlier the guards had information that Russian forces were moving back deep into Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last Wednesday he had ordered the return of the troops from regions bordering Ukraine ahead of the presidential election on May 25.
At the same time, the US-led military alliance has been building up forces and increasing patrol missions in Eastern Europe. Later this week, NATO defense ministers are set to meet to discuss their plans to boost military personnel in Poland, in addition to some 200 US soldiers deployed this year to the Poland’s city of Szczecin.
Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia, NATO has been systematically stepping up its presence near the Russian border, citing a need to protect its allies. The alliance has dispatched several warships to the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean.
NATO has also reinforced air patrol of the Baltic states, with radar-equipped planes making regular flights over the territory of Poland and Romania. In addition, the alliance is going to increase its permanent military presence in the region and expand program of drills.