NATO says Russia ties most ‘difficult’ since Cold War
WASHINGTONTies between NATO and Russia are at their most difficult phase since the Cold War, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said, blaming Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict.
Speaking after United States President Donald Trump said relations between Washington and Moscow had hit an “all-time low,” the alliance’s chief said Russia’s “destabilization” of eastern Ukraine had helped scupper hopes of a diplomatic reset.
“I think [it] is correct to say that NATO’s relationship with Russia is more difficult than it has been any time since the end of the Cold War,” Stoltenberg told CNN on Aug. 3.
“At the end of the Cold War, we hoped to develop a close partnership with Russia.
“But especially after the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the continued Russian destabilization of eastern Ukraine, the relationship between NATO and Russia has deteriorated considerably.”
Stoltenberg said that NATO was committed to avoiding a further spike in tensions and was pursuing a twin-track approach of “defense deterrence and dialogue.”
“As long as we are strong, as long as we are predictable, we can also engage in political dialogue with Russia to try to avoid escalation and avoid a new Cold War,” he said.
Stoltenberg’s remarks came as Trump blamed U.S. Congress for “all-time & very dangerous low” relationship with Russia.
“You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!” the president said, referencing the failure of the Senate to pass legislation overhauling the Affordable Care Act, a long-term GOP priority and marquee Trump campaign promise.
The president’s assessment came a day after he begrudgingly signed legislation, passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate, that imposes new sanctions on Russia and places restrictions on his ability to roll back punitive measures already in place.
In a statement on Aug. 2, Trump criticized the bill he signed as “seriously flawed,” arguing that it encroaches on his powers as president. He also said that he had “built a great company worth many billions of dollars” and asserted that he “can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”
Lawmakers from both parties pushed back against Trump’s tweet on Aug. 3. Those included Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who pinned blame for the deteriorating U.S.-Russia relationship “solely” on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I know there’s some frustration. I get it,” Corker said, speaking of Trump’s reaction to the sanctions bill. “We acted in the country’s national interest in doing this. Putin, through his actions, is the one who has taken this relationship back to levels we haven’t seen since 1991.”
Those actions, Corker said, include “an affront to the American people” by meddling in last year’s presidential election.