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"Diplomats and pundits will play semantics with terms like 'continuous presence,' but the bottom line is that while there will now be NATO troops conducting exercises in the eastern allies practically every day, these deployments will be short-term and smaller scale than the threatened allies feel necessary," Benitez said.
The U.S.-based analyst personally believes the alliance need a more muscular policy to check Putin's ambitions. Citing a media report of war games held recently on both sides of Russia's frontier with the alliance, Benitez asked rhetorically, "Will 6,000 NATO troops exercising in your country make you feel safe from 150,000 Russian forces exercising near your border?"
NATO officials and representatives of member countries have also made clear they think this is no time to redraw the map of Europe, because of negative effects it could have on an already unpredictable security climate. At its 2008 summit in Bucharest, Romania, then President George W. Bush and other NATO leaders agreed that Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics that the Russians consider part of their "near abroad," would one day be admitted to the alliance.
Last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he would submit a bill to his nation's parliament proposing Ukraine shed its current non-aligned status and seek NATO membership. But speaking Monday to reporters, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dodged the question of precisely when Ukraine might be allowed to join, saying things were at "an early stage of the process."
A French government official flatly ruled out admitting Ukraine or Georgia at this juncture, saying "NATO, its actions, must not contribute to the tension or worsen the climate around Ukraine."
AP correspondents Geir Moulson in Berlin, Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Jim Heintz in Kiev and Gregory Katz in London assisted in this report.