German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone about Ukraine, as NATO declared they will not put nuclear arms and new troops in eastern Europe. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also reassured Romania and Cyprus of America’s support during the crisis with Ukraine.
According to Voice of Russia, the Kremlin press service said Merkel and Putin discussed the upcoming presidential election in Ukraine on May 25. It is unknown if the two leaders discussed anything else in detail, including Putin’s orders to remove Russian troops from Ukraine’s border. It is the third time Putin ordered the removal of troops, but, once again, NATO and the Pentagon do not see any sign of movement.
Even though Russian troops are not moving, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the press he will not place nuclear arms or add more troops to NATO countries in Eastern Europe.
Asked if the Ukraine crisis would lead NATO to reconsider its pledge not to place nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states, Rasmussen told a news conference: “At this stage, I do not foresee any NATO request to change the content of the NATO-Russia founding act (the 1997 agreement).”
He said, however, that Russia’s actions in Ukraine had created “a completely new security situation in Europe” and NATO must adapt accordingly. Long-term decisions would be taken when NATO leaders meet in Wales in September, he said.
Russia is not a member of NATO, but former Soviet states have joined since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. In 1997, NATO told Russia they would not place nuclear weapons in new NATO members. A few of these ex-Soviet states include Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and all three have expressed fears their countries might be Putin’s next target after Ukraine. NATO already added more troops to the countries, along with Poland. In March, Joe Biden met with the leaders of the Baltic states and Poland to reassure them of America’s support if Russia should threaten them.
On Monday, Biden extended this promise to Romania, a member of NATO and the EU, and EU member Cyprus. Romania is on edge because Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted a threat to the country after officials did not allow his plane to fly over Romania. He said, “Yes, gentlemen, Romanians, we’ll soon explain who you are and what we think about you,” and he vowed to return in a UT-160, which is a Russian jet bomber. While Biden said the U.S. supports Cyprus, he also wants the country to support harsher sanctions against Russia. Cyprus is one of the many countries in the West that Russians use for tax benefits and a luxurious vacation spot.