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Hagel warns Americans of the risks of isolationism
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) May 06, 2014


Eastern Europe troop surge could become permanent: general
Ottawa (AFP) May 06, 2014 - NATO's troop build-up in Eastern Europe amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine could become permanent, the military alliance's top general said Tuesday.

NATO countries drew down their defense budgets following the end of the Cold War, as they started to look upon Russia as a partner, US General Philip Breedlove said.

But Russia's "annexation of Crimea... changes that dynamic," the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe told a press conference, after meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other officials in Ottawa.

"What we are very clear about now is that that paradigm has changed in the current situation; Russia is not acting as a partner," Breedlove said.

"I think we need to look at our responsiveness, our readiness, and then our positioning of forces to be able to address this new paradigm that we have seen demonstrated in Crimea and now on the eastern border of Ukraine."

Pressed about whether the situation in Ukraine could result in a permanently beefed up NATO military presence in allied countries bordering Russia, he said: "I think this is something that we have to consider."

But that decision, he added, will be made by NATO leaders at an upcoming summit, where they will look into the question of whether they are correctly positioned in Europe.

The 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have responded to Russia's intervention in Ukraine by stepping up defenses in Eastern Europe, sending warships, fighter jets and troops to the region.

The troop surge is scheduled to end on December 31.

Japan, NATO express concerns over Ukraine crisis
Brussels (AFP) May 06, 2014 - Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe and NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen agreed Tuesday the Ukraine crisis was a threat to global security which must be addressed.

As Russia rejected a new peace initiative and fears of open war mounted in Ukraine, Rasmussen said the situation amounted to the "gravest crisis to European security since the end of the Cold War."

The crisis is deepening in the run-up to May 25 elections, with some 40,000 Russian troops massed on the border with eastern Ukraine where the Kiev government is under pressure from pro-Kremlin militias.

"This is not just about Ukraine," Rasmussen said.

"This crisis has serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole.

Abe said "we will tolerate any change to the status quo through intimidation, coercion or by force."

"This is not only applicable to Europe or Ukraine. This is applicable to east Asia ... this is applicable to the whole world," he said, adding: "We have to have a dialogue with Russia."

Both men stressed the importance of cooperation between NATO and Japan, which since World War II has had a 'Self Defence Force' with a limited role rather than an army which can be deployed abroad on military missions.

As such, Japan is not a member of the alliance but counts as a partner, working with it in counter-piracy and anti-terrorist efforts, as well as supporting its mission in Afghanistan.

Japan is however a close ally of the United States, with US President Barack Obama recently affirming those defence links as Tokyo views a rising China with alarm and concern.

Neither Abe, on the last leg of a European tour in Belgium, nor Rasmussen mentioned China by name.

Previously Rasmussen has stressed the need for a peaceful resolution of the many territorial disputes between Japan, China and their neighbours in Asia.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday warned Americans against isolationism, saying the United States could not afford to turn away from the world's crises.

Hagel's appeal coincides with a growing fatigue at home with the country's international commitments, after 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon chief acknowledged Americans were wary of foreign commitments but said the costs of pulling back from the world would carry even bigger risks.

"Turning inward, history teaches us, does not insulate us from the world's troubles," Hagel said in a speech in Chicago.

"It only forces us to be more engaged later -- at a higher cost in blood and treasure, and often on the terms of others," he said.

Hagel said staying engaged with the world was not an act of "charity" but a matter of practical national interests.

"Although Americans today are increasingly skeptical of foreign engagement and global responsibilities, it is a mistake to view those responsibilities as a burden or as charity," Hagel said.

"Let us remember that the biggest beneficiaries of American leadership and engagement in the world are the American people," he said.

The current era of "unprecedented prosperity" could not be taken for granted and had evolved partly due to America's diplomacy and military strength, Hagel said.

He said that "walking away from the world, and our relationships, is not an option for the United States."

Some critics on the right have accused President Barack Obama of weakening US leadership in the world through his cautious approach to intervention in Libya, pulling back from military strikes in Syria and moving slowly to aid Syrian rebels fighting the Damascus regime.

Even with the US withdrawal from Iraq and a drawdown in Afghanistan, Hagel said the American military currently has about 400,000 troops deployed around the world in nearly 100 countries.

A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News reflected Americans' mixed feelings about the country's international role.

According to the survey conducted in March, 47 percent said the United States should be less active in global conflicts but about half said they want a president who will take on America's enemies abroad.

In his speech, Hagel criticized Congress for imposing steep, "irresponsible" automatic budget cuts that had proved damaging while refusing to tackle rising personnel and infrastructure costs that could free up funds for training and weapons.

"And even as Congress has slashed our overall budget, they have so far proven unwilling to accept necessary reforms to curb growth in compensation costs and eliminate DoD's (Department of Defense) excess infrastructure and unneeded facilities," he said.

With some members of Congress vowing to overturn the Pentagon's proposals to close some bases and reform pay and benefits, Hagel said retaining the US military's edge would require lawmakers to make "tough choices."

Members of Congress will need to examine "our broader national interests instead of narrow constituencies."

The event for Hagel was co-hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, which is led by Obama's former top political adviser, David Axelrod.

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