By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
Listen to this BosNewsLife News report via Vatican Radio:
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife)– American President Barack Obama says the NATO military alliance is preparing contingency plans amid regional concerns that Russia will invade other countries after its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Speaking at the end of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, he also warned the United States and European Union are working on tougher sanctions against Moscow.
Obama said the deployment of 30.000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders appear “to be an effort of intimidation” at a time of concern in neighbouring countries that they will be next after Russia invaded Crimea.
However the president made clear that the NATO military alliance is preparing to defend its member states.
“Some of those countries are NATO allies. And as NATO allies we believe the cornerstone of our security is making sure that all of us, including the United States, are abiding by Article 5 and the notion of collective defence,” Obama said.
Article 5 says that an “armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all” and that consequently they will defend each other.
Obama revealed that NATO is now organizing – “even more intensively” – to make sure “contingency plans are in place, and that every one of our NATO allies has assurances that we will act in their defence…”
Additionally, Obama said, the West will give economic and political support to non-NATO members such as Ukraine.
He also warned of more EU and US sanctions if Russia continues military actions in Crimea and beyond.
“And that would include areas like energy, or finance, or arms sales or trade that exists between Europe, the United States and Russia,” Obama explained.
The European Union and United States already imposed measures such as imposing travel bans and financial restrictions on key Russian officials.
Summit host, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, acknowledged that EU leaders have been anxious about retaliation by Russia, a key natural gas supplier of Europe.
“But obviously we make sure will design the sanctions in such a way that they will have a maximum impact on the Russian economy, and not on the European, the Canadian, the Japanese, or the American economy,” Rutte pledged.
President Obama urged Moscow not to use the argument of protecting Russian minorities to invade other areas and end its international isolation.
He criticized Moscow’s argument that it is protecting ethnic Russians.
Obama said unlike in Kosovo, where he claimed “thousands were slaughtered” during the recent Balkan wars, “there was no evidence that Russian speakers” have been attacked.