Nuland Meets Paet, Discusses Ukrainian Vote and NATO Security (1)
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland in Tallinn on Tuesday, regarding the upcoming elections in Ukraine and the US's defense posture in Estonia and around the world.
Nuland said that security for the vote, to be held Sunday, is of paramount concern.
"The vast majority of Ukraine, outside of Crimea, obviously, and even in the majority of Donetsk and Luhansk, elections are possible if they were held today, free and fair," she said. "But obviously where separatists have a chokehold over the population, there are going to have to be alternative arrangements."
"What we've seen in the eastern Ukraine, regrettably, in towns like Slovyansk and towns like Mariupol, is when the Ukrainian security forces maintain a cordon, the situation remains contained in those towns. When they pull back, the separatists squirt out and start taking buildings in other places."
Nuland told ERR that although there was a perception that the US had turned its focus to Asia in President Barack Obama's first term, she said that was not so, that Asia and the Pacific Rim had just been put on equal footing with Europe.
But recent events have certainly brought more attention to the Ukraine to Europe again, and Nuland stressed that the U.S. is still playing the role of the backbone of transatlantic security cooperation.
"With the changing security environment, it is important to take steps together to enhance NATO's deterrence," said Paet, pointing to the 150 US troops that were deployed to Estonia in late April, and the American role in the enhancement of the Baltic air policing operation.
Paet said that was an example of the commitment of the Member States to NATO's collective defense. "The US and NATO presence will greatly enhance deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, " he said.
Nuland was at the center of a diplomatic scandal earlier this year when she was alleged to have made an obscene reference to the European Union, when one version of a January telephone conversation with the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, was broadcast on YouTube. Nuland was discussing with Pyatt her plans for the role of the Ukrainian opposition leaders in the country’s coming government. Nuland later apologized for her statement.