The war of words between the west and Russia escalated some more on Wednesday after NATO's top military commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, said the Russian military presence at the border with Ukraine continued and released satellite photos of tanks, attack helicopters and war planes to validate this.
Russia promptly replied that it would have none of this, and not only denied once more that it has any plans to invade Ukraine, but foreign minister Lavrov said that Russia was merely retaliating to what it sees as a NATO build up in proximity to Russia:
"The constant accusations against us by the secretary general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat to Nato members and to strengthen demand for the alliance ... in the 21st century."
As opposed to the 19th century, one assumes, eh John Kerry?
Today it was NATO's turn to retaliate once more. First with words, after NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said: "I have this message to Russia: you have a choice to stop blaming others for your own actions, to stop massing your troops, to stop escalating this crisis and start engaging in a genuine dialogue." He added: "If Russia is serious about a dialogue, the first step should be to pull back its troops."
And then with actions, by explicitly confirming that Lavrov was absolutely correct when he accused NATO of building up weapons around Russia and thus forcing Russia on the defensive, when US destroyer Donald Cook crossed the Bosphorus overnight and entered the Black Sea. Why? To "show America's commitment to the region."
“The Donald Cook’s mission is to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners of America’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working towards mutual goals in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren said.
More importantly, it will also reassure Russia and its citizens that their country's stance that the arms building up along Ukraine's borders is indeed simply to defend against a boosted NATO presence is valid, and will likely prompt even more of a troop and weapons build up.
Until finally someone on either side of the border "accidentally" fires a shot across into the other side and then the war of words will progress into the real thing.
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So keep an eye on further escalations by both NATO, and naturally Russia - which suddenly is once again on the defensive in its view - and perhaps on what Russia's aircraft carrier currently in Cyprus' port of Limassol is doing.
— Red8 (@RAFRed8) April 10, 2014