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Russia to react to US-NATO exercise Defender 2020 in Europe — Lavrov

Moscow will react in a way that will not create unnecessary risks, according to the Russian top diplomat

MOSCOW, February 4. /TASS/. Russia will react to the US military exercise in Europe Defender 2020 due in March, but it will do so in a way that will rule out unnecessary risks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting with the staff of the government-run daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta. A transcript of the conversation was published by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

"Naturally, we will react," Lavrov said. "We cannot ignore processes that arouse very great concerns. But we will react in a way that will not create unnecessary risks."

Those who provoke such utterly unreasonable exercises "wish to see retaliatory measures that would allow for building up tensions further on," he stated.

"It is noteworthy that everything that we do in response to NATO’s threats to our security we do exclusively in our own territory," Lavrov added.

The exercise is codenamed Defender, he stressed.

"Who are they going to defend themselves from? They claim that they have to defend themselves not from Russia, but from an adversary whose potential is identical to that of NATO," Lavrov said. "Here it will be very hard to find the correct target for these efforts, matching the comparability criteria. One look at the official statistics - not ours but foreign - concerning military spending, military equipment and all types of armaments without any exception will be enough to see that NATO’s European members alone, the US component excluded, surpasses our armed forces more than by half. I have no idea where they have found a comparable opponent."

In this connection Lavrov stressed that it was not Russia but NATO that was the dominant military power.

"Although the entire space there is oversaturated by military facilities and weapons, although NATO’s eastward expansion has already created serious problems in the field of strategic stability in Europe, the merger of NATO and the EU is continuing," he explained. "NATO members have been trying to hold joint exercises and trying to plug in neutral EU members, such as Finland and Sweden. In the context of NATO’s cooperation with the EU they invented a special term - military Schengen - which implies an upgrade of all transport arteries extending towards the alliance’s eastern border in such a way that will enable the unhampered delivery of any combat equipment to the east. I believe that this is enough to realize how dangerous such games are."

Also, Lavrov drew attention to the fact that formally the exercise was declared as US one, which NATO partners would be invited to join.

"One remarkable detail. I’m really curious about the reason. One of the possible ones is the Americans find it far easier to do all the planning themselves and to carry out everything on their own, with no regard for NATO discipline," Lavrov said. "Although in NATO the US commander in Europe is also the commander of NATO forces in Europe."

Defender 2020 will be the largest US exercise in Europe over the past 25 years. As a military source in NATO explained to TASS, it would be a US exercise under US command. NATO’s bodies would play a subordinate role, responsible for logistics and coordination of contingents delegated by the 17 allied countries that would participate. All in all, 37,000 troops will be involved. The center of the exercise will be in Germany, with some events taking place in the territory of NATO’s ten member-countries, including areas near Russia’s borders with Poland and the Baltic countries.