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5 Sep, 2014 22:55

‘Expansionism and destabilization’: Russia lashes out over NATO spearhead force in E. Europe

‘Expansionism and destabilization’: Russia lashes out over NATO spearhead force in E. Europe

Moscow has accused NATO of using the Ukrainian crisis as a “pretext” to “push its military presence closer to Russia’s borders,” and says that plans for a new rapid response force will sabotage the peace process in eastern Ukraine.

READ MORE: At least 4,000 troops: NATO approves new E. Europe-based spearhead force

“The [expansion] plans have been harbored by NATO for a long time, and recent events have served as a pretext to put them into action,” said a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, following the wrapping up of the NATO summit in Wales.

“Together with the rhetoric at the summit, and the planned military exercises before the end of the year, this will increase tension, destabilization the nascent peace process, and further widen the division in Ukraine,”
the ministry’s statement said.

“The above is also testament to NATO’s unconditional support for the extremists and neo-fascists in Kiev, including the Right Sector political movement,” it stressed.

During the two-day summit, the 28 NATO member states instituted the creation of a rapid response unit numbering at least 4,000. It could be deployed in Eastern Europe – where it will be based – in less than 48 hours.

The primary stated reason for the initiative is “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko (RIA Novosti / Grigory Sysoev)

Russia’s NATO envoy, Aleksandr Grushko, also denounced NATO’s policy, suggesting that the alliance was engaged in “Cold War thinking,” and risked undermining the landmark 1997 treaty in which Moscow and Brussels officially proclaimed that they were no longer “adversaries.”

In a TV interview, Grushko said that NATO was “flexing its muscles,” and pointed out that an increased presence of NATO vessels in the Baltic and Black Sea would destroy the recently built-up level of trust in what were once the potential flashpoints in the standoff.

READ MORE: ‘Most convincing evidence’: Russian embassy trolls NATO with toy tanks

Grushko also called the planned NATO-Ukraine exercises a “provocation” because “foreign troops will appear in a country that is fighting its own people.”

“NATO must play no role in the Ukrainian conflict,”
the official told Rossiya-24 network.

He also accused the US of “trying to unload the financial burden of maintaining NATO onto its allies.”

NATO leaders watch a fly-past by the Red Arrows during the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor resort, near Newport, in Wales September 5, 2014 (Reuters / Rebecca Naden)

Despite the harsh rhetoric, Moscow left room for potential cooperation with NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, which the foreign ministry said is an “efficient mechanism for consultation and developing common approaches.”

“We will continue to cooperate with the alliance, providing it takes our national interests into account,” Grushko stressed.

NATO cooperation with Russia has been suspended since March, following the ascension of Crimea to the Russian Federation.