America’s commitment to NATO’s core principle — that an attack on one alliance member shall be considered an attack on all — is “unwavering,” the secretary said.
NATO ministers also met Tuesday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytisa. Kerry said “they stood together in defense of Ukraine’s right to choose its future and in defense of international law.” Kerry blasted what he called Russia’s “tactics of intimidation, especially deployment of unprecedented forces around Ukraine’s borders.”
On Monday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said one battalion — about 500 troops — had been pulled back, but NATO’s secretary general downplayed talk of a major withdrawal.
“This is not what we have seen,” Rasmussen told reporters. “And this massive military buildup can in no way contribute to a de-escalation of the situation — a de-escalation that we all want to see. So I continue to urge Russia to pull back its troops, live up to its international obligation and engage in a constructive dialogue with Ukraine.”
Deshchytisa, the Ukrainian foreign minister, told a separate news conference that NATO ministers had treated Ukraine’s situation with “understanding and support and knowledge.”
His country doesn’t need weapons, the Ukrainian official said, but is hoping for “military technical equipment.” He said a delegation of experts from NAT0 member countries was expected to visit Kiev next week for consultations.
In other developments, Russia sharply hiked the price for natural gas to Ukraine and threatened to reclaim billions in previous discounts, raising the heat on Ukraine’s cash-strapped government.
Alexei Miller, the head of Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom natural gas giant, said the company has withdrawn December’s discount that put the price of gas at $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters and set the price Tuesday at $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters for the second quarter.
The move is expected to eventually hit Ukrainian consumers hard. Household gas prices in Ukraine are set to rise 50 percent beginning May 1.