Russia's Foreign Ministry has hit back at NATO, accusing it of focusing its efforts on containing a non-existent "threat from the east." This comes after a NATO summit called for a tougher position toward Russia.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday that the alliance's leaders "stand together" on Russia, agreeing to bolster NATO's eastern flank after Moscow's annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine conflict.
The summit approved the rotational deployment of four battalions of up to 4,000 troops from 2017 to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
"A preliminary analysis of the results of the meeting shows that NATO continues to exist in some sort of military-political looking-glass world," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement following the two-day NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland. "Contrary to the objective interests of maintaining peace and stability in Europe... the alliance concentrates its efforts on deterring a non-existent threat from the east."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has strongly attacked NATO's decision to put four battalions in Poland and the Baltic states, seeing the expansion into Moscow's Soviet-era "near abroad" as a direct security threat.
NATO ambassadors are scheduled to meet their Russian counterpart, Alexander Grushko, in Brussels at the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday and will inform Moscow about the decisions taken at the Warsaw summit.
"Moscow said it will seek explanations for NATO's plans," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement. Grushko has promised to raise some tough questions on the alliance's military activity.
Russia will also seek an explanation from NATO for a Finnish plan to improve air defenses over the Baltic Sea, Zakharova said in the statement.
Baltic region a point of friction
The Baltic area has been a friction point in recent months, with close encounters occurring between Russian aircraft and US ships and planes. Russia has said NATO allies are creeping ever closer to its Kaliningrad exclave.
Of the 4,000 troops to be deployed, the US will contribute a 1,000-strong battalion, according to US officials. Polish officials want the force to be located in the Suwalki Gap, the stretch of Polish border between Kaliningrad and Belarus.
Old voices join in
Meanwhile, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told Interfax news agency on Sunday: "Despite NATO assurances that it seeks deterrence and dialogue with Russia, NATO seems to be preparing to escalate conflict. The rhetoric in Warsaw screams of an intention to practically declare war on Russia. They only talk about defense, but in fact they are preparing an offensive."
jbh/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)