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NATO’s Black Sea presence seen as another step towards tensions — diplomat

"NATO continues to reinforce its eastern flank," Alexander Grushko said

BRUSSELS, February 16. /TASS/. NATO’s expanded presence in the Black Sea is seen as another step towards whipping up tensions in this region that is vitally important for Russia, Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said on Thursday, adding that Russia will thoroughly analyze these plans not to leave them unanswered.

"The decision to increase NATO’s naval presence in the Black Sea is, in any case, yet another step towards escalating tensions in the regions of vital importance for Russia," he said after a meeting of NATO’s defense ministers.

"NATO continues to reinforce its eastern flank. This meeting yielded more decisions concerning the southeastern segment. It looks like NATO plans to set up a multinational group on the basis on the Romanian army brigade. Eight NATO countries said they are ready to join a brigade-level headquarters and five countries pledged to allocate additional elements - air-and ground-based - to support this brigade," he said.

"We took a notice of the fact that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had pledged that these plans would be realized in strict compliance with the Montreux Document [regulating the upper limits of simultaneous presence of warships on non-Black Sea states in the Black Sea], which is one of the key instruments of ensuring stability in security in this region," he said.

"The NATO defense ministers also passed a decision to coordinate the alliance’s naval activities with NATO’s Standing Maritime Group, obviously the Mediterranean one," he added.

"All this will be subject of thorough analysis. We have already taken additional response steps to reinforce our groups in the south. We are rearming our group in Crimea. Naturally, we will take all necessary measures to duly ensure Russia’s interests in this region," Grushko stressed.