NATO must start thinking of Russia as “more of an adversary” than “a partner,” said Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow on Thursday. Speaking to defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Vershbow said the ongoing situation in Ukraine has significantly changed NATO’s relationship with Russia and must be monitored closely. Although NATO suspended “practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia last month, Vershbow said the alliance hopes to keep the “channels of communication open.” However, he said there are “two different visions of what European security should be like.” Although, he acknowledged that NATO is limited in how it can respond to Russian aggression in Ukraine, because Ukraine is not an alliance member, Vershbow said NATO will “still defend the sovereignty and freedom of choice of Russia’s neighbors.” However, “Russia clearly is trying to re-impose hegemony and limit their sovereignty under the guise of a defense of the Russian world.” Vershbow said NATO now is focused on “going back to the basics” and discussions about whether to deploy additional combat forces to Eastern Europe, either permanently or on a rotational basis, are ongoing. Vershbow emphasized the need to be to “project a force quicker,” saying NATO also is considering prepositioning equipment throughout member countries.
May 12, 2021
May 12, 2021