Russia proposes to NATO safety measures in Baltics
Russia has proposed "risk reduction measures" in the Baltic region, where crowded skies have led to several close calls and sparked worries over an accident, NATO's chief said Wednesday.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Moscow offered to turn on transponders on its warplanes flying in the Baltic region, if NATO planes did the same, after months of complaints from the alliance that Russian jets were behaving unprofessionally and recklessly.
"Allies will study this proposal carefully" but want more details, Stoltenberg said after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, a dialogue forum that brings together Russia and 28 NATO ambassadors.
"Transponders are important, but they are only one element of a broader picture related to air safety. The basic thing is safe behavior, to fly in a safe and professional way," Stoltenberg said.
The NATO-Russia meeting was only the second in two years after dialogue was largely severed and relations between the West and Moscow dove to their worst level since the end of the Cold War due to the Ukraine crisis.
"We had an open and frank atmosphere in the meeting but we didn't agree," Stoltenberg said after the talks. "Allies and Russia have profound and persistent disagreements on Ukraine. There was not a meeting of minds today," Stoltenberg said.
NATO upped jet patrols over the Baltic region following Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine, which has caused concern of Russian irredentism in Poland and the three Baltic states.
NATO has accused Russia of provocations along its border and violations of NATO countries' airspace. Russia accuses NATO of threatening behavior on its border.
The meeting came less than a week after a major NATO summit in Warsaw, where the alliance announced plans to deploy four brigades amounting to about 4,000 troops to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. NATO also took control of a US-built missile defense shield that Russia views as hostile.
Russia's NATO ambassador Alexander Grushko said after the meeting on Wednesday that the alliance's policies were threatening and destabilizing.
"The measures on the eastern flank are not justified. They are excessive and counterproductive," Grushko said. "The direction in which NATO is moving in military terms is very worrisome," he said. "It takes us back to the Cold War."
"Russia is not a threat to the alliance," Grushko said, adding that his country would take measures to ensure its security and defense.
cw/xx (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)