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MOSCOW, February 21. /TASS/. NATO keeps on dodging practical cooperation with Russia and intimidating itself by the "Russian threat," Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday.
"As for our relations with NATO, the leadership of the North Atlantic Alliance keeps to the former course of rejecting all formats of practical cooperation with us and goes on to intimidate itself by our threat," he said.
Instead of pooling efforts with Russia to counter terrorism, "the alliance has declared Russia as its main threat and is building up its military potential along our borders," he noted. "The number of NATO drills has increased in Eastern Europe, in the Baltic and Black Seas. They often have openly anti-Russian nature and are aimed against Russia," he added.
Russia is ready for equitable dialogue with NATO and is planning to use such formats as consultations of the NATO-Russia Council working groups and International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to develop partnership, he went on.
"The US missile defense system in Europe has reached the initial operational capability level. An anti-missile defense system was deployed to Romania in 2016. The US Standard Missile 3 interceptors are to be deployed to Poland before the end of this year. Today, the cumulative military budget of the alliance’s member-countries is more than $900 billion and exceeds Russia’s defense expenditures by leaps and bounds," Shoigu said.
"Nevertheless, we are prepared to establish an equitable dialogue with Brussels on the entire array of global and regional security issues. We hope that the NATO-Russia Council, which resumed its work in 2016, will contribute to this," the minister said. Shoigu added that "such formats as the Moscow Conference on International Security, consultations of the NATO-Russia Council working groups and the International Syria Support Group" are to be used to develop partnership with NATO.
According to Shoigu, Russia and NATO could succeed in the joint fight against international terrorism, above all, in countering the spread of the Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) and other terrorist organizations. The minister pointed to positive experience of cooperation on the issue of the Syrian chemical weapons. "At that time, an international coordination headquarters were established at the Russian ships within a short period of time, and 1,300 tonnes of chemical weapons components were brought out of Syria without a single shot fired," Shoigu said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry is recoding ever more frequently the stay of NATO warships with missile armament in the Black Sea, he added.
"We’re registering ever more frequently the stay of NATO warships with missile armament in the Black Sea," the minister said at the opening of the 2nd All-Russian youth forum: "International Military-Political and Military-Economic Cooperation: Modern Trends" at Moscow’s MGIMO University.
NATO countries have intensified reconnaissance along the perimeter of Russia’s territory, the defense minister said.
"Over ten years, the total number of flights of the alliance’s reconnaissance aircraft near our borders has risen actually threefold and this figure has increased by eight times in southwest Russia," Shoigu said.
"For comparison, there were 107 such flights in the 1990s, 298 in the 2000s and 875 in 2016," the Russian defense minister said.