NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivers a statement to the media March 2 at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Rasmussen urged Russia to stop its military activity and threats against Ukraine, saying Moscow's action threatened 'peace and security in Europe.' (Georges Gobet / Getty Images)
BRUSSELS — NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia on Sunday to stop its military activity and threats against Ukraine, saying Moscow’s action threatened “peace and security in Europe.”
“Russia must stop its military activity and its threats,” he said before opening crisis talks with NATO’s 28 ambassadors. “Today we will discuss the implications for European security.”
Rasmussen tweeted on Saturday that the North Atlantic Council will hold a meeting Sunday about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Saturday, Russian lawmakers approved Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request to move troops to Ukraine, while the Ukrainian acting president Oleksandr Turchynov put his country’s military on higher alert, according to media reports. Russian troops began occupying the Crimea region of Ukraine on Friday and pro-Russian protests were held Saturday in the Russian-speaking eastern parts of the country.
“The stakes are significant for both the U.S. and Russia, as well as for Europe and NATO,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander, said in an email Saturday to Military Times.
In a commentary published Saturday in Foreign Policy, Stavridis argued that NATO should take a number of steps in response to Russia’s military actions in Ukraine, including putting NATO’s 25,000-troop Response Force on a higher state of alert.
“Many will consider any level of NATO involvement provocative and potentially inflammatory,” Stavridis wrote. “Unfortunately, the stakes are high and the Russians are moving. Sitting idle, without at least looking at options, is a mistake for NATO and would itself constitute a signal to Putin — one that he would welcome.”
Speaking from the White House on Friday, President Obama said the U.S. government is “deeply concerned” about reports of Russian military movement inside Ukraine.
“The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” Obama said.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called on Obama to spell out exactly what those costs will be.
“Every moment that the United States and our allies fail to respond sends the signal to President Putin that he can be even more ambitious and aggressive in his military intervention in Ukraine,” McCain said in a statement issued on Saturday “There is a range of serious options at our disposal at this time without the use of military force. I call on President Obama to rally our European and NATO allies to make clear what costs Russia will face for its aggression and to impose those consequences without further delay.”
Staff writer Jeff Schogol and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.