(WASHINGTON) — Calling Russia’s actions in Crimea a “wake-up call,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a crowd at a think tank Wednesday that the military intervention is the “gravest threat” to Europe since the Cold War and warned that there is a concern that Russia won’t stop with Crimea.
“I see Crimea as an element in a greater pattern, in a more long-term Russian — or at least Putin strategy. So of course, our major concern now is whether he will go beyond Crimea, whether the Russia will intervene in the Eastern parts,” he said in a speech at the Brookings Institute.
“We had thought that such behavior had been confined to history, but it’s back and it’s dangerous because it violates international norms of accepted behavior,” he said.
The size of Russia’s military intervention and the fact that it directly borders NATO countries are especially troubling, said Rasmussen.
“Russia was among those who committed in 1994 to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said, adding, “Russia pledged not to threaten or use force against Ukraine. By turning its back on that agreement, Russia has called into question its credibility and reliability as an international actor.”
Rasmussen said that all cooperation between NATO and Russia is now under review, including suspending plans to escort Russian ships that are ferrying chemical weapons from Syria, and further sanctions could be applied.
He said that the door was not closed in finding a political solution to continue to work with Russia, but that the Kremlin’s current behavior must stop.
“Should Russia be considered a partner or an adversary? I have to ask that question, and many allies asked that question. So that’s why we can’t continue business as usual,” he said.
Rasmussen noted that Ukraine will be the primary issue of discussion at next month’s NATO ministerial meeting. He is in Washington meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
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