VIENNA, June 27. /TASS/. Structured military dialogue may help ensure air safety over the Baltic Sea, Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko told TASS.
"If you are serious about de-escalation and the prevention of serious military incidents - and this is what NATO countries have been stating - you need to restore structured military dialogue and invite people who understand what the talk is about," he said. "You also need to tackle a number of technical issues that are beyond the competence of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization - TASS) and concern the military aspects of air and naval security," he added. "I am confident that if NATO countries are really interested, they should take the necessary steps," the Russian diplomat noted.
The Russian envoy did not rule out that air safety over the Baltic Sea may be put on the agenda of the next meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. "In fact, the Council has been keeping an eye on this issue," Grushko explained. "Unfortunately, NATO members have not shown a meaningful approach to the ideas put forward by the Russian Defense Ministry that suggested a meaningful dialogue aimed at building confidence in the Baltic Sea area, both bilateral and multilateral," the Russian diplomat said.
"At the same time, members of the Russia-NATO Council support the activities of a project group initiated by Finnish President Niinisto to consider air traffic issues involving civil, commercial and state aircraft, including warplanes," Grushko said.
"The group has already done a lot," he said. "Agreements have been reached eliminating some ‘grey zones’ in the ICAO regulations. Besides, an additional international route has been set up between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. On the whole, all members of the Council view the group’s activities positively," the Russian permanent representative to NATO concluded.
The deployment of additional NATO units and the alliance’s provocative exercises in close proximity to Russian borders pose a threat to Russia’s security, Grushko said.
"All these deployments, including the never-ending chain of exercises, create an entirely new configuration of forces close to our borders, which not only considerably exacerbates the security situation in the region but also poses a threat, a threat to Russia," the diplomat noted.
Russia’s envoy disagreed with the opinion expressed by NATO Deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller, who asserted that NATO’s group deployed close to Russia’s borders does not correspond to the definition of a significant contingent. "We see any level exceeding a brigade as substantial," he said. "By the way, the brigade level was enshrined as significant in the amended Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) when the parties agreed that any deployment beyond the brigade level would be regarded as an emergency situation affecting the security interests of both Europe in general and the parties."
"Unfortunately, the NATO-Russia Founding Act has no clear definition of the importance of additionally deployed forces," Grushko stated. "However, NATO’s actions on the eastern flank undermine the Founding Act substantially."
"That includes deployment of NATO's forces as such, the deployment carried out by the US as part of the so-called European initiative to quell the allies, what many countries are doing in their national capacity, and, of course, the construction of missile defense facilities in Romania and Poland, which are deployed there on a permanent basis and are sure to be significant militarily," the diplomat explained.