NATO ‘forces us’ to adjust to a new security reality – Russian ambassador to NATO
The council met for the second time since 2014 after NATO suspended its military cooperation with Moscow over what it perceived a Russian aggression in Ukraine. The gathering also came at the heels of this month’s NATO summit in Warsaw where the alliance agreed to deploy four additional battalions to the Baltic States and Poland.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who also gave a press conference following the Wednesday’s meeting highlighted that the build-up was a “direct” response to “Russian actions in Ukraine.” He went on saying that the alliance “briefed Russia” on the matter during the Council’s meeting and that it will invite “international inspectors, including from Russia” to observe its drills in the region. Grushko however insisted that the deployment of additional NATO personnel close to Russian borders is a step in the wrong direction. "We believe these measures are superfluous, counterproductive, they are confrontational, essentially weakening pan-European and regional security while bringing us back to the safety models of the Cold War era," Grushko told reporters following the meeting.
While talking about an alleged Russian threat, cited by NATO, Grushko pointed at the increased militarization of the Baltic States, a region where there were “no frozen conflicts.”
"The danger lies in the fact that today's confrontational policy, which is built on the basis of the mythical threat from Russia, takes the form of military planning and military preparations at our borders. In fact, the East European members of the alliance, who declared themselves the frontline becomes a springboard for military deployments and the provision of military and political pressure on Russia," Grushko said.
He also raised concerns over a NATO missile shield in Europe, declared ready during July’s Warsaw NATO summit. While saying the system is “posing a threat to Russia” Grushko noted that Moscow will now do everything needed to “ensure the security” of its country. Despite remaining at odds with the NATO on a number of issues, Grushko still did not want to paint it all black.
"We believe that the way to stabilization of the situation,” he said and that this way lies through the freeze of NATO military buildup “near the Russian borders, the reduction of military activity there followed by the pullout of deployed units to their permanent bases."
One of the key issues at the table of the latest Russia NATO Council was the ongoing escalation of violence in east Ukraine. “There was not a meeting of the minds today” said NATO Secretary General while commenting on the issue. Briefing the journalists on the Russian NATO envoy claimed Moscow is “witnessing not only the continuing violations of the cease-fire, but also an increase in attacks, mainly from Ukraine." The official went on saying that the majority of the shelling targeted the areas held by anti-government forces.
While discussing the violations, representatives from NATO and Russia still reiterated that both parties of the Ukrainian conflict should stick to Minsk peace deal. The Russian envoy also highlighted that the peace process should continue on “two rail tracks” that of a “security” and a “political” one. Settling the Ukrainian crisis “would contribute to an overall improvement in relations between NATO and Russia," the NATO Secretary General said.
While dealing with current conflicts and disagreements was high at the agenda of the Russia-NATO Council meeting, it also focused on how to boost “transparency and risk reduction” between the two. A particular point here is the avoidance of any incidents in the skies over Baltic, especially during military drills.
Addressing the issue, Russia went ahead with the proposal for NATO and Russian jets to use transponders to clearly identify their planes, a measure currently used only in certain cases. NATO Secretary General welcomed the move. "Allies will study this proposal carefully. I welcome that Russia has signaled that it wants to pursue risk reduction measures," Stoltenberg said.
In March, two Russian jets buzzed over a US destroyer USS Donald Cook who moved close to Russian border in the Baltic while conducting joint drills with Polish navy. Back then Polish ex-President Leh Valensa told Radio Free Europe “If I were the commander of this ship, if these [Russian] planes were flying I would shoot them. But not to kill. I would knock off the wing.” While in June an American guided Missile destroyer Gravely came just sixty meters close to the Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry in the Mediterranean, while crossing its path. Moscow accused Washington of violating navy rules over the “dangerous” move.