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NATO’s declared readiness to work with Russia runs counter to practical deeds — diplomat

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko  EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko

MOSCOW, February 16. /TASS/. NATO’s declared readiness to work with Moscow on easing tensions in bilateral relations does not reflect the alliance’s actual policy toward Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told TASS on Thursday.

"NATO representatives say all the time that they are not seeking confrontation with Russia, that they are ready to work on de-escalation with us," said Grushko, who is Russia’s former envoy to NATO. "But steps currently being made by NATO show that those statements cannot be treated as reflecting actual policies. Day by day, we get information about new decisions, intended to step up NATO military capabilities on the eastern flank."

According to Grushko, Moscow observes NATO activities comparable only to those during the Cold War.

"We see that right now NATO has been reinforcing is eastern flank to protect itself from the non-existent threat, and employing deterrence schemes of the Cold War-era," he said. "Moreover, the alliance sticks to the decisions of the Warsaw and Wales summits to end cooperation with Russia."

At the same time, the diplomat said that Moscow was ready for a dialogue.

"We are open for dialogue and we have suggested various ideas on how to organize it via bilateral channels with separate members of the alliance - for example, with the Baltic states - on the basis of existing agreements aimed at preventing military incidents," Grushko said. "We were ready to work with NATO in a collective format as well, but no progress has been made in this direction so far."

He said he was sure that member states of the alliance will eventually realize that their policies were a mistake.

"I’m convinced that Europeans should realize that the policy toward Russia that they had chosen is a total deadlock, it’s counterproductive, and that instead of strengthening international and regional security, it undermines security interests," Grushko added.

"Our policy is relatively calm," the diplomat said. "From the military point of view, Russia takes all necessary measures needed to protect our security interests and make sure that our national defense remains at a proper level."

He expressed regret that NATO missed chances for a mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia.


NATO says ready to resume Russia-NATO Council’s work

Earlier on Thursday, a NATO source said that the Alliance was ready to continue the activities of the Russia-NATO Council despite the fact that there is no Russia’s permanent representative in Brussels. On January 22, Russia’s President appointed the country’s Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko to the post of a deputy foreign minister.

"We are committed to the idea of holding a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council," the NATO source said. "Russia will have to make a decision concerning the level of its participation. We had been discussing the upcoming meeting before Ambassador Grushko left. When Russia is ready and we are ready, we will hold this meeting. We are open to continue the work."

"We are ready to talk with Russia at any level, including the charge d'affaires level," the source added.

Later in the day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he planned to discuss the further activities of the NATO-Russia Council at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Munich. The meeting is expected to be held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 16-18.

"I look forward to meeting Minister Lavrov in Munich. That’s part of our political dialogue with Russia," Stoltenberg said. "We will discuss many different issues but I expect to also address how we can make sure that the NATO-Russia Council can continue to be a platform for dialogue between NATO and Russia."

He added that "dialogue is always important, but dialogue is particularly important when tensions are high and relations are difficult as they are now."

"And I also welcome the fact that after two years with no meetings in the NATO-Russia Council from 2014 to 2016, we have been able to convene six meetings of NATO-Russia Council," the NATO secretary general said.

Ambassadorial meetings of the Russia-NATO Council used to be held several times a month but after the Ukrainian crisis erupted, which led to the freezing of relations between Russia and NATO, their number reduced to three to four a year. Only three issues have been discussed at the Council’s recent meetings - the situation in Afghanistan, the transparency of military activities in Europe and the civil war in Ukraine.