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Russian envoy says relations with NATO started deteriorating long before Ukrainian crisis

"We saw the first signs of such a turn in 2004, when the decision was made to start patrolling the airspace above the Baltic," Alexander Grushko said

BRUSSELS, December 8. /TASS/. The deterioration of relations between Russia and NATO has started long before the Ukrainian crisis, Russia’s envoy to the North Atlantic Alliance said on Thursday.

"The turn in NATO’s policy (toward Russia) has appeared long before the Ukrainian crisis," Grushkov said. "In the purely propagandist way, this crisis was used to justify plans for NATO’s rearmament and for returning NATO to its initial task ― defending from a large enemy," he added.

"We saw the first signs of such a turn in 2004, when the decision was made to start patrolling the airspace above the Baltic, though no changes in the sphere of security occurred which could have justify this step. Today it is obvious that NATO sees its future in connection with defending from a large enemy, which forces them to exaggerate the Russian threat. However, it is absolutely clear that thinking that Russia harbors any aggressive plans toward NATO is beyond common sense," he concluded.

No fundamental changes

"Judging by public statements that were made right after the ministerial meeting, no fundamental changes have occurred in NATO’s approach toward Russia," Grushko said commenting on the results of the informal meeting of foreign ministers of NATO member countries that was held on December 6 in Brussels.

"The double approach to Russia, about which leaders of the Alliance talk all the time, is nothing new. This is the invention of Belgium’s former Foreign Minister Pierre Harmel who proposed to combine dialogue with firm defense and deterrence. In fact, the situation continues to remain dangerous," the Russian ambassador noted.

"We see that the situation continues deteriorating. In particular, new headquarters are being set up, there is an ongoing discussion that NATO needs to build up its presence in the Black Sea. In the end, all of this contradicts real security needs in Europe," he said. "If we are talking in a political language, then through this military build-up, NATO is trying to impose on us the agenda of the times of the Cold War and thus prove its relevance in new security conditions. This is a very dangerous tendency," Grushko concluded.

Building security together

"We are confident that most Europeans understand that it is impossible to form security without Russia or against Russia. Security will be durable only when it is ensured together with Russia. And this envisages respect of national interests, equality and clear understanding of the aim toward which we are moving together," Grushko said.

"We see that Russophobia in several so-called ‘frontline states’ (Baltic States and Poland) is very high. If they are handing out brochures in Lithuania on how to fight against occupants, then this is the evidence that NATO is crossing all lines here, and it is hard to hold a concrete dialogue in such conditions. If NATO is really ready to proceed to de-escalation, this should firstly be reflected in stopping further strengthening of the eastern flank and switching to normal dialogue on how to improve security together," he stressed.

Russia and NATO do not have a consensus yet on convening a new session of the Russia-NATO Council but consultations on the issue continue, Grushko noted. "Maybe, some people do have the plans to convene something but the convocation of the Russia-NATO Council requires a collective decision," he said. "We don’t have any such decision so far but consultations continue."