NATO Deputy Secretary-General warns that Russian actions in Crimea undermine international security system (+video)

March 13, 2014

NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow

News Source: PASOS Secretariat, Czech Republic

Speaking at a NATO training session organized by PASOS, NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow warned that Russia’s occupation of the Crimean peninsula threatens to undo all of the efforts to build trust and cooperation between the alliance and Russia made after end of the Cold War.

“There is only one subject on that agenda right now, and that’s overshadowing everything else, namely, the situation in Ukraine, and Russia’s actions there, which have violated international law, and undermined all the principles of the post-war security system. I say that with no exaggeration,” he told a group of 40 students who gathered at the Czech Foreign Ministry in Prague March 10 for the NATO Winter Academy 2014.

“I should add, however, that we still believe, we are deeply convinced, that NATO and Russia share many of the same interests and face many of the same security challenges and we should be addressing these challenges together. We should be working to counter terrorist threats, stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Vershbow made the remarks during a Internet keynote address broadcast from Brussels. The academy is being held March 10-14 in coordination with the Moscow-based Centre for European Security, and NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.

In a question-and-answer session held with the students after his speech, Vershbow rejected efforts to compare the Crimean crisis with NATO’s actions in Kosovo in the 1990s.

“Indeed, the NATO intervention in Kosovo was not under an explicit UN Security Council resolution. But it was a crisis that had been preceeded by years of war, of genocide, of mass expulsion of more than 50 percent of the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo. It was the subject of numerous of UN Security Council resolutions, which considered it a threat to international peace and security … You had actual evidence of flagrant violations of human rights, hundreds of thousands of refugees … You don’t have that kind of massive pattern of human rights violations going in Ukraine or Crimea.

“This is an artificial crisis that has been precipitated by the Russian Federation.”

Vershbow’s speech and the ensuing question-and-answer session can be seen in full in the video below:

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The NATO Winter Academy series began in 1999. Its objective is to inform the participants about different subjects connected with NATO, its evolution, its relationships with Eastern Europe and Russia. The goals of this year’s week-long event are:

  1. to explain NATO’s role in the formation of the European security system, the character and meaning of its interrelations with other European institutions, and especially the significance of the cooperation between the Russian Federation and NATO
  2. to provide information to the Russian public about the NATO-Russia Council, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the participation of Russia and other countries in the “Partnership for Peace” Programme
  3. to explain the changes in the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance, how these changes influence the situation in Europe in the context of security, and provide information about the different North Atlantic Alliance bodies
  4. to promote better public understanding in Russia of the changes which already have happened and will continue to occur in NATO-Russia relations
  5. To contribute to the formation of civil society in Russia

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