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A NATO air patrol mission flies over the Baltics
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Kaminski

NATO's Baltic arms buildup 'to prevent conflict'

June 2, 2016

Speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO chief Stoltenberg has said the bloc is reinforcing its Baltic battalions to prevent a conflict with Russia. He denied being in a "new Cold War" with Moscow.


"We are strengthening our collective defense not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict," NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told journalists in Berlin on Thursday.

"We do not want confrontation with Russia. On the contrary, we strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia," he said, adding, "We are not in a new Cold War."

Recently, NATO members pondered ramping up their military presence in Poland and further east, after Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said they felt a threat to their territory by the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Responding to the tense situation, German Chancellor Merkel said a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before the NATO summit in Warsaw this July could help in sorting out matters.

Deutschland Berlin Merkel und Jens Stoltenberg
Merkel and Stoltenberg: no intention of conflict with RussiaImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

"It would be desirable if we had a NATO-Russia Council before the summit," she said at the joint press conference with Stoltenberg, adding that Germany was prepared for an intensive engagement in the Baltic region.

Tackling terrorism and refugees

Merkel and Stoltenberg also discussed tackling the refugee crisis and terrorism during their briefing. The German chancellor said Iraq had requested for training for its troops, which the NATO was prepared to provide.

Stoltenberg addressed instability in Libya, saying the NATO was ready "to help the new government in Libya, if it so wishes." However, the alliance could aid the country only as part of a UN initiative.

The officials also spoke about possible deployment of NATO troops in the Aegean Sea and beyond, to fight human traffickers. Stoltenberg said he was also of the opinion that "the NATO could do and ought to do more" to tackle the crisis.

mg/sms (dpa, AFP)

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