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How Genuine Is Russia's Ceasefire?


We now go to Ivo Daalder, he was the U.S. Ambassador to NATO until last year. He's now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for being with us.

IVO DAALDER: Oh, my pleasure.

SIMON: Ari mentioned a couple of times this cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels. Are you concerned that this is a peace agreement or a stalling tactic?

DAALDER: Well, I'm in the stalling tactic camp. I think what we're seeing here is the attempt by Russia to create another one of these frozen conflicts that they have created in their periphery. They've done it in Georgia. They've done it in Moldova. And I think they - what they'd like to see is a major part here of Ukraine - of eastern Ukraine - to be under the control of forces that respond to Moscow rather than Kiev. And the cease-fire puts them a little further into that camp.

SIMON: And what do you think about NATO's agreement about what's been called a spearhead force? Is that symbolic or something more?

DAALDER: No, I think this is important, as I think Ari's report demonstrated. I think one of the key tests here for NATO at the summit was the question, can the NATO alliance as a whole send a message clearly to all of its members that it takes the defense of all the members very seriously? And this rapid reaction force and a number of other, perhaps, less flashy but equally important decisions like the prepositioning of equipment in the East, infrastructure improvement of ports and railways and rail stations so you can - and airports so you can flush troops in to defend Eastern Europe, are all very important ways to reassure countries like Estonia, Latvia and Poland that the defense of their territory is NATO's business. It also sends, frankly, a message to Vladimir Putin that whatever he may have in mind in Ukraine, he shouldn't think about doing anything like that in a country like Estonia. And that's an important result coming out of the summit.

SIMON: Mr. Ambassador, let me ask you to turn some of your reflections to the Middle East. President Obama spoke over the past couple of days about degrading and destroying the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Do you think other nations might regard that as just more red line talk?

DAALDER: Well, I think it depends on who the other nations are. I think there was a very important meeting of nine other countries in Wales, in which there was a decision that they would work together and try to enlarge the coalition with countries in the region itself to really start putting serious pressure on ISIS. And the strategy that is emerging of military aid to forces on the ground, the possibility of airstrikes, the bolstering of Iraq politically and economically, are all designed to really start squeezing ISIS, and ultimately, degrading, in the words that the president used, and ultimately destroying it as an effective force. I think whether they will succeed, we will have to see. But it is important that we are moving in the direction of bringing together major parts of the international community - countries that are directly or indirectly affected in order to focus attention on this threat that has exploded on the scene in Iraq over the past few months so that we can start the process of pushing them back and ultimately destroying them.

SIMON: Mr. Ambassador, in the half a minute we have left, what do you say to those Americans who might hear this this morning and say, look, these guys in the Islamic State sound reprehensible and I don't like Russia trying to inhale Ukraine. But in the end, we have a lot to work on on this country and it doesn't have much to do with me.

DAALDER: Well, the security of the world is directly related to the security here at home. It's directly related to what happens in the world. In the 20th century when we had two world wars that were started in Europe and we had to fight them, in this century when we ignored what was happening in Afghanistan, we had an attack on our own soil. We are living an integrated world and that means we have responsibilities, but we should do so with other countries. And, that is, I think, one of the things that the NATO Summit tried to put forward.

SIMON: Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Thanks so much.

DAALDER: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.