Ukraine Crisis Casts Long Shadow Over NATO Summit

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The fighting in Ukraine is likely to dominate the upcoming NATO summit in Wales. The newest members want NATO to do more to counter Russia's moves, including supplying weapons and intelligence.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

As we mentioned, NATO leaders will soon meet for their annual summit. The crisis in Ukraine is likely to cast a long shadow over that meeting. NATO has released satellite imagery of Russian tanks and troops inside Ukraine to show, as the U.N. secretary general put it, that Russian denials ring hollow. But what will the alliance do to counter Russia's aggressive moves? That's the question that hovers over the meeting taking place in Whales this week as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: A former ambassador to NATO says the alliance is confronted with a security challenge that we haven't seen since the end of the Cold War.

IVO DAALDER: I think this is the most important summit that NATO has had for probably a quarter of a century.

KELEMEN: Ivo Daalder, now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, says NATO has done a good job of highlighting what's really going on in Ukraine and reinforcing its commitment to NATO states nearby. But it also needs to take a step further, he says, to think about how it can help the situation in Ukraine now.

DAALDER: It's not an NATO commitment to defend Ukraine. The President of the United States has ruled out direct military action, but between no military action and nothing are a range of options that NATO, either as individual countries or as an alliance, should start to consider.

KELEMEN: Daalder, who was President Obama's ambassador to NATO says it is time for the U.S. to consider sending weapons to the Ukrainian military and sharing more intelligence. His predecessor in that job, Kurt Volker, agrees saying what NATO has done so far is just not enough.

KURT VOLKER: Responding to Ukraine by protecting the Baltic states is important for the Baltic states and the right thing for NATO to do, but that's not sufficient to the Ukraine crisis.

KELEMEN: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters Friday that the alliance will establish trust funds to help Ukraine with logistics, command and control and cyber defense.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SECRETARY GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: The whole purpose of these trust funds is to finance activities that can assist Ukraine in reforming and modernizing the armed forces with a view to making them stronger to defend Ukraine.

KELEMEN: That's fine for the long-term, says Volker, who now runs the McCain Institute, which is part of Arizona State University. But he says there's an urgent need for of the military alliance to send a signal to Russia now.

VOLKER: If NATO is going to stand up for European security, now is the time to do it. And if it doesn't do it, it will also be a signal that NATO is not going to play that role. And that means that Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, anyone that's not already a member, it's open season.

KELEMEN: Some analysts argue that military aid would simply provoke Russia further. And U.S. officials say for now they're focusing on nonlethal assistance. But Volker thinks the opposite, saying that by doing nothing, the West will only invite further Russian aggression. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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