​What lies behind NATO’s activity near Russia’s borders?

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
​What lies behind NATO’s activity near Russia’s borders?
Some recent statements about a buildup of US troops in Eastern Europe in the framework of the so-called military operation “Atlantic Resolve” are a matter of concern.

Plans to add around 160 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles to 60 existing ones for an indefinite period of time run counter to the Russia-NATO Founding Act. Adopted in 1997, the Act obliges NATO to refrain from deploying substantial combat forces on the territory of new members, including Eastern European countries. Eventual permanent deployment of US armored vehicles in Eastern Europe on this scale raises serious doubts about the alliance’s compliance with its commitments. In our opinion, by doing so, the US and NATO are ignoring the basic elements of European security and provoking military and political destabilization.

Added to the intense NATO air force activity near Russia’s borders, this creates a broader picture of the US and NATO persistently increasing its military presence in eastern member-states. Since 2014, the intensity of NATO reconnaissance plane activity in the Baltic region in close proximity to Russian borders has increased significantly and amounts to 8-12 sorties per week. The picture is similar in the Black Sea area: the total number of sorties in March - December 2014 was 460, compared to just 20 over the same period in 2013. Overall, the number of sorties of NATO tactical warplanes near Russian and Belarusian borders doubled 2014 compared with 2013, at 3,000. By way of comparison, over the same period, Russian reconnaissance aircraft carried out just over 200 sorties over the Baltic Sea area compared to 125 sorties in 2013.

All hysteria in the Western press and some official statements, including those of the UK authorities, about Russia’s strategic bomber operations in international air space, which have always been carried out in strict compliance with international regulations, cannot be interpreted otherwise than a cover-up of military activities against Russia’s interests. In the current circumstances, it does not contribute to a restoration of mutual trust, in which we are all interested. Europe deserves better than sliding into confrontation with Russia, for which there are no valid reasons, but the inertia of a Cold War strategic mindset.

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