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Russia Rips Up NATO's Rulebook
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Russia Rips Up NATO's Rulebook

Europe

Russia Rips Up NATO's Rulebook

Russia Rips Up NATO's Rulebook
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President Obama has spent much of the week talking about what NATO can do to respond to current crises. NATO leaders approved a plan to develop a rapid response force to primarily counter Russia.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. And President Obama is back in the U.S. after the NATO Summit in Wales. Some are calling the summit meeting perhaps the most important such meeting since the end of the Cold War. NPR's Ari Shapiro is still in Cardiff and reports on whether the summit met the hype.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: If you had surveyed foreign-policy experts a few years ago and asked them what the 2014 NATO Summit would focus on, everyone, including President Obama, would've given you the same answer - Afghanistan. Here he was at a press conference yesterday.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: NATO's combat mission ends in three months, and we are prepared to transition to a new mission.

SHAPIRO: Afghanistan has been NATO's biggest focus for more than a decade. That war is now ending, but everyone who guessed Afghanistan as this year's headline would've been wrong - not even close. Here's NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

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SECRETARY GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Everybody realizes that we are now in a dramatically changed security environment.

SHAPIRO: To say the least. In the last six months, Russia's actions in Ukraine have rearranged the European security chessboard. Leaders in Wales used a more alliterative metaphor. As British Prime Minister David Cameron put it...

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PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: Russia is ripping up the rulebook.

SHAPIRO: But to be fair, he borrowed the phrase from Rasmussen's video blog.

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RASMUSSEN: Russia has ripped up the international rulebook.

SHAPIRO: This year's NATO Summit was kind of a throwback - Western Europe and the U.S. teaming up against Russia like decades ago, reassuring countries like Latvia and Poland that if Russia attacks one NATO member, the alliance will consider it an attack on all. President Obama even visited Estonia on his way to Wales to deliver that message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: Citizens, like nations, will never settle for a world where the big are allowed to bully the small.

SHAPIRO: This new crisis seems to have focused NATO and given it a new purpose. Europe analyst Jan Techau says that's good for the alliance.

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JAN TECHAU: NATO did a relatively outstanding job in kind of reinventing itself, quote, unquote, within a very short period of time.

SHAPIRO: Techau directs the think tank Carnegie Europe. I met him at a Welsh hotel bar last night as the final marathon summit day wrapped up.

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TECHAU: It's pretty amazing how that summit became something very, very different in a very short period of time and then producing results. You rarely get as much substance out of a NATO Summit, but here, the pressure was clearly so high that they felt they needed to do something and they did.

SHAPIRO: So what exactly did they do? Here is President Obama in yesterday's press conference.

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OBAMA: We will create a new highly ready rapid response force that can be deployed on a very short notice. We'll increase NATO's presence in Central and Eastern Europe with additional equipment, training, exercises and troop rotations.

SHAPIRO: They call it a spearhead force. Right now NATO troops can take months to deploy. This new team will be able to mobilize in days, and they'll be parked near the Russian border. NATO members say they will increase their financial commitments too after years of shrinking defense budgets.

So Russia's actions in Ukraine have rejuvenated the alliance for sure, but not everyone believes this is a good thing.

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JOHN MEARSHEIMER: It's just going to make a bad situation worse.

SHAPIRO: Political scientist John Mearsheimer wrote an article in Foreign Affairs Magazine called "Why The Ukraine Crisis Is The West's Fault." He argues that NATO should be trying to improve relations with Russia, not punish the Russians.

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MEARSHEIMER: It's going to cause further trouble in Ukraine itself. It's going to give the Russians added incentives to wreck that country. It's going to poison relations between the United States and Russia. And, in fact, we need Russian help with regard to the Iranian nuclear issue, with regard to Syria, with regard to the movement of troops out of Afghanistan.

SHAPIRO: But that is not the direction the West is heading. At the summit, President Obama said the U.S. and Europe have prepared more sanctions against Russia, even as news broke of a cease-fire in Ukraine. The president said he intends to press ahead with those sanctions. They can be lifted if the cease-fire holds.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Cardiff, Wales.

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