NATO sent a warning to Russia after Moscow moved more troops to the Ukraine border, but Russia insists they are within international troop limits. NATO fears more troops along the border could be a threat to Moldova and attempt to seize Transdniester.
Transdniester is a small strip of land between the Dniester River and Ukraine. The country left Moldova in 1990, but no United Nations recognized their independence. The majority of the population speak Russia and 30% are ethnic Russians. Their government asked to join Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
“The (Russian) force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizeable and very, very ready,” NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, told an event held by the German Marshall Fund think-tank.
“There is absolutely sufficient (Russian) force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transdniestria if the decision was made to do that, and that is very worrisome,” Breedlove said.
Russia’s deputy defense minister Anatoly Antonov told Russian news agencies they are in complete compliance with international law.
“The Russian defence ministry is in compliance with all international agreements limiting the number of troops in the border areas with Ukraine,” the deputy defence minister, Anatoly Antonov, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
Vladimir Chizhoz, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, said Russia does not have any plans to expand after taking Crimea.
One of the international agreements is the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). Countries in the treaty are limited to 20,000 tanks and 30,000 ACVs. Russia moved troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border a few days before Crimea’s March 16 referendum. They received criticism after soldiers engaged in military exercises, but Moscow said it was to familiarize the troops with unfamiliar lands. In response, parliament passed Ukraine’s interim President Oleksandr Turchynov’s resolution to build a national guard with 60,000 people.