Wall Street Journal on August 21, 2015, reported on the first visit of NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Ukraine. The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization called on Russia to take the next step to advance the Ukrainian peace agreement by withdrawing its heavy weapons from the country’s east. Excerpts below:

“Heavy weapons are still there. It is encouraging that we have seen that the cease-fire is by and large holding,” he said. “But we don’t underestimate the challenges we are facing.”

Mr. Stoltenberg traveled to a military-training ground about 28 miles from this city in western Ukraine to inaugurate a NATO disaster-relief exercise.

NATO has stepped up its interaction with Ukraine in recent months, working on initiatives to help Kiev with demining, logistics, combat medicine, cyberdefenses and other areas.

Several NATO members, including the U.S. and Canada, have small training missions at the base near Lviv.

The disaster-relief exercise, which simulated a mine collapse that triggered a series of infrastructure failures, is being held at a military base. A Ukrainian military band played at the opening of the exercise and the Americans participating in the operation were from the U.S. Army.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the exercise is relevant given the current situation in the country. Appearing beside Mr. Stoltenberg at a news conference, he said he wanted to see closer cooperation with NATO. Although he noted that his country wasn’t asking for membership in the alliance, he said he was seeking closer military ties with the alliance.

“This is a civilian exercise but we are interested in different kinds of exercises that increase our coordination and cooperation with NATO,” he said.

Mr. Stoltenberg earlier said the situation in eastern Ukraine was fragile.

“Any election that takes place in Eastern Ukraine that is not in accordance with Ukrainian law will be a violation on the Minsk agreement,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “They will be fake elections. They won’t be recognized by any NATO allies.”

Comment: Increasing NATO support for Ukraine is needed. The present practical support is too low key. Ukraine needs more lethal defense weapon, that can be provided by the United States. In recent time Putin’s Russia has turned to more aggression, this time in Syria where increased military aid is provided to Syria’s dictator Assad. This will lead to a prolonged civil war in Syria.

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