Russia agrees to talks with NATO after Warsaw
PARIS – Reuters
AFP photoMoscow has agreed to a Russia-NATO council after the alliance’s summit in Warsaw next month, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on June 29, as both sides seek to defuse military tensions exacerbated by the Ukraine crisis.
NATO held its first formal meeting with Russia’s envoy to the alliance in almost two years in April, but the talks did little to ease tensions triggered by the Ukraine crisis in 2014.
France and others have called for another meeting to try to help rebuild trust between the two sides as NATO prepares for a summit in Warsaw on July 8-9.
“Russia gave its approval but would like the meeting to take place after the Warsaw summit to be able to examine the decisions that are taken there,” Ayrault told journalists after meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Paris on June 29.
NATO allies are to decide at the summit on July 8-9 how best to deal with Russia after Moscow’s lightning seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Ayrault said France wanted the summit to show solidarity among allies but also transparency towards Russia through dialogue.
“We don’t want the Warsaw summit to be a confrontational summit,” he said.
On June 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would respond to NATO’s military buildup near its borders, but would not be drawn into an arms race.
The United States, Britain and Germany have said they will deploy more troops to Poland and the Baltics to send Moscow a message.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on June 29 rebuked NATO for bolstering its military presence in eastern Europe and vowed Moscow will take countermeasures.
“The U.S. and other NATO members continue to build their military potential, first and foremost in countries neighboring Russia,” Shoigu was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
“Such actions by our Western colleagues will undermine Europe’s stability and force us to take countermeasures, first of all, in the western strategic direction.”
Shoigu said that “more than 2,000 units of new and modernized equipment” would be deployed in Russia’s western military district this year.
This latest warning comes nearly two months after Shoigu said Moscow was poised to set up three new military divisions in the west and south of the country to counter NATO forces close to its border.
In response, NATO has deployed additional military resources on its eastern flank. At its previous summit in 2014, the alliance decided to reinforce its presence along the Russian border, angering Moscow.
Shoigu on June 29 claimed that the intensity of NATO’s activities along the Russian border had “more than doubled,” claiming that up to 30 NATO warplanes and some 1,200 pieces of military equipment are stationed on a rotational basis in eastern Europe.
The minister warned that the intensity of NATO activity in the region could “considerably increase” after the alliance’s next summit, which is taking place in Warsaw July 8-9.