Deterrence & dialogue: Merkel says Russia key to European security but defends NATO buildup

European security can only be ensured with, not in defiance of, Russia, the German chancellor told MPs ahead of the NATO summit in Warsaw. Merkel claimed the bloc’s Eastern European build-up near Russian borders was of a "defensive nature."

“There is an agreement among our partners and the [NATO] alliance, and we are united on this, that long-lasting security can only be ensured in cooperation with, not in defiance of, Russia,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, speaking to MPs on Thursday.

The chancellor’s parliamentary speech comes ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw. It is expected to green-light deployment of more troops and military infrastructure in Eastern Europe to counter what the bloc’s leadership continues to call “Russian assertiveness.”

“We are interested in positive relations with Russia,” Merkel added.

She claimed NATO’s military build-up in Eastern Europe and the bloc itself were of a “defensive nature only,” a remark that was met with heckling from the opposition.

“Deterrence and dialogue, solidarity with our partners in the alliance and an outstretched hand for dialogue do not come into conflict and are indivisible from each other,” she said.

Merkel said her government welcomes the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting, scheduled to take place on July 13, but added a separate meeting before the Warsaw summit would facilitate a discussion on “the alliance’s decisions and avoid misunderstanding.”

"We hope for a frank and serious dialogue on the issues related to the increased NATO activities near Russian borders and their impact on the security and stability in Europe and its regions," Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to the alliance, told Reuters later on Thursday, commenting on the NRC meeting.

Despite saying Germany and NATO are willing to cooperate with Russia, the chancellor said Berlin remains committed to maintaining military spending at the current level and contributing to the allies’ security.

Mutual trust between NATO and Russia was destroyed by Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, she claimed as a justification.

“When the rule of law and territorial integrity are being questioned, of course, there’s loss of trust,” she said. After the 2014 Western-backed Euromaidan coup in Kiev toppled elected President Viktor Yanukovich, Crimea opted to reunite with Russia in a region-wide referendum.

Following the coup, two eastern regions, Donetsk and Lugansk, proclaimed independence from Kiev. They took up arms to resist a government forces’ offensive to regain control over the breakaway areas. The West accuses Russia of aiding the rebels, but Moscow denies any involvement.

Putin: ‘EU is Russia’s friend; NATO is the problem’

The Minsk agreements, launched by major world powers to bring lasting peace to eastern Ukraine, are key to further NATO-Russia ties, Merkel stressed in conclusion.

The NATO build-up on its “eastern flank” will top the agenda of the Warsaw summit, the bloc’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this week.

“We will deploy four robust, multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland” along with strengthening the bloc’s cyber, intelligence and logistical capabilities, he said

Moscow has repeatedly said it keeps the door open for mutual dialogue, but promised to take adequate countermeasures to NATO’s build-up on its borders. This would include the creation of new military formations, setting up early-warning radar stations and further investments in troop readiness.