Russia says NATO build-up on its borders is to achieve ‘dominance in Europe’
The Russian Foreign ministry has criticized the outcome of NATO ‘s ministerial summit in Brussels this week, claiming the alliance’s adopted course of action to increase troop presence at Russian borders is being done to achieve “dominance in Europe.”
During the two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers with their Ukrainian counterpart, the bloc discussed measures against so-called “Russian aggression.” Namely, plans to quickly extend the alliance’s Response Force to 40,000 troops from the current 13,000 and place additional hardware, including tanks on Russian borders.
The military buildup in six states bordering Russia is a “dangerous line for promotion of NATO infrastructure,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding the summit continued the trend that was first set out during last year’s Wales Summit.
NATO’s eastward expansion, the ministry believes, is being done “under the false pretext of alleged ‘aggressive behavior’ by our country.” The military buildup, the ministry says, is accompanied by “unfriendly and malicious” rhetoric.
Such an approach is “counter-productive” in military terms, and also serves as a financial “burden” for member states, and it “distracts” the alliance’s from dealing with other threats, such as terrorism, and drug trafficking, the ministry believes.
“Moreover, such an obvious return by the United States and its allies to the schemes of Cold War is fraught with an escalation of tensions and encourages an arms race,” the statement said. These sorts of actions are “able to poison the atmosphere for a long time on the European continent.”
Commenting on NATO’s heavy hardware expansion in six Eastern European states, former Polish Vice Admiral Marek Toczek admitted that dangerous escalation could have catastrophic consequences.
“Either this is saber-rattling, or a harbinger of something that can affect the people of Eastern and Central Europe, and not only them, –a harbinger of extreme catastrophe of a kind humanity has never known. In Poland there are many people –their numbers difficult to estimate in percentage terms, but very likely a majority, who are against these sorts of political decisions,” Toczek told Sputnik.
The admiral stressed the need to solve the tensions surrounding Ukraine through diplomacy and said that the Polish leadership had agreed to increase the presence of NATO troops and military equipment as part of a parliamentary pre-election measure ahead of upcoming elections this fall.
NATO cooperation with Russia has been suspended since April last year over the Ukrainian crisis.
The Kremlin has continuously denied having troops present in Ukraine or being aggressive towards NATO states. But if NATO threatens Russia’s territories, Moscow will respond to the threat accordingly, President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month.
“If someone threatens our territories, it means that we will have to aim our armed forces accordingly at the territories from where the threat is coming. How else could it be? It is NATO that approaching our borders, it’s not like we are moving anywhere,” Putin said.