Washington: The US Defence Department has suspended all military-to-military engagements with Russia because of Moscow’s military movement in Ukraine.
The suspension covers bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, adding the Pentagon values the relationship it has developed with the Russian military in the last few years.
Kirby said the US Monday evening called on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and to pull Russian forces in Crimea back to their bases “as required under the agreements governing the Russia Black Sea Fleet”, Xinhua reported.
The spokesman also stressed that the US military has not changed its posture in Europe or the Mediterranean Sea.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the US trade representative was quoted by media as saying that the US has also put trade and investment talks with Russia on hold over the Ukraine crisis.
The moves came after US President Barack Obama said his administration was examining “a whole series of” economic and diplomatic steps to “isolate” Russia over its refusal to withdraw military forces from Crimea.
Washington and its allies have already decided to suspend preparations for the G8 summit slated for June in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Crimea, a multi-ethnic region in southeastern Ukraine with a large Russian population, enjoys a high degree of autonomy after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia has maintained its only Black Sea naval base there in the port of Sevastopol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his country could not stay aside if violent actions were taken against Russian speakers in eastern Ukrainian regions and Crimea.
But he has also stressed that Russia would take necessary measures according to international law and that further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine should be averted.
On Monday, the Russian foreign ministry refuted allegations of the NATO that Russia was conducting military escalation in Ukraine’s Crimea.
“Providing security for fleet facilities and preventing possible attacks on our compatriots from extremists and radicals are the sole purposes of all troop movements,” the ministry said.