Ukraine Dominates Discussions of NATO Defense Ministers

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The NATO defense ministers meeting held in Brussels on 26-27 February was dominated by events in Ukraine. After the first day of the meeting, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, "Ukraine is the most important security issue in Europe today."

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Earlier in the day, allied defense ministers issued a statement supporting "Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe and on the continent as a whole," although Rasmussen on 27 February downplayed the statement by pointing out that it comes from the documents creating the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC), which met during the second day of the ministerial.
 
He also downplayed the Russian exercise taking place on the eastern border of Ukraine, which the Russians informed NATO about on 26 February, accepting the Russian explanation that it has nothing to do with events in Ukraine, while conceding "it doesn't make things easier that there is coincidence between the timing of this exercise and the ongoing events in Ukraine."

Ukrainian First Deputy Minister of Defense Oleksandr Oliynyk told the NUC the Ukrainian armed forces would remain neutral in the events sweeping his country. Rasmussen said NATO will continue to support democratic development, defense reforms, military cooperation, and democratic control over Ukraine's security sector and that this partnership would continue to be developed within the NUC.

He praised Ukraine for participating in all NATO-led military operations and for its contribution to the NATO Response Force (NRF). Ukraine participated in NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR), Stabilization Force (SFOR) and Kosovo Force (KFOR) in the Balkans, has provided airlift and medical support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and sent warships to join the Operation Endeavour counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean and the Operation Ocean Shield counter-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa.

Ukraine was the first non-NATO member to participate in the NRF, starting with a nuclear, biological and chemical defense platoon in 2010 and currently with a battalion of marines on operational standby.

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