Nato slams Russia for lack of cooperation

A top Nato commander has criticised Russia for failing to respond to Alliance overtures to increase cooperation in tackling Islamic terrorism and other threats.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

19 May 2016

Speaking in Brussels, General Petr Pavel, chairman of Nato's influential military committee, said the message to Moscow was, "We are open to communication."

The Czech-born official said, "It's not just a cliché as I'm repeatedly accused by some Russian web portals including the Russian Foreign Ministry. But it's true, we would welcome any constructive dialogue."

Addressing a news conference after a meeting of the military committee, Nato's highest military authority, said he had personally offered his Russian counterparts in Brussels direct communication on a number of issues.


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Pavel added, "Unfortunately, these offers were not answered in a positive way. Wherever there is a serious will to have a meaningful dialogue we can start tomorrow because the channels are open and we have expressed the will to communicate many times."

"Of course, Afghanistan, terrorism in general, Syria and other issues like risk reduction and transparency measures would come to my mind immediately."

His comments come after US Defence Secretary Ash Carter earlier this month accused Russia of "nuclear sabre-rattling" and of being intent on eroding international order.

Carter said he regretted strained relations with Moscow but said the US had to "prioritise deterrence" on NATO's eastern flank.EU-Russian ties have been particularly strained by the Ukraine crisis and recent military encounters in the Baltic Sea.

In one recent incident two Russian warplanes flew close to a US destroyer almost a dozen times in international waters in the Baltic Sea.

US officials described it as "an aggressive act" while Russia has accused Nato of threatening its national security.

General Curtis Scaparroti, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who also took part in the same Nato talks on Wednesday, dismissed fears aired by General Alexander Richard Shirreff, a senior British army officer, of an imminent war between Nato members and Russia.

In a new book, '2017 War with Russia', Shirreff, a former deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, suggests there will be a war, that it will start next year and the first country attacked by Russia will be Latvia. 

But Scaparrotti, a four-star general in the United States Army, says that while Russia had become "assertive" and was "pressing its periphery deliberately" adds, "I don't believe there'll be a conflict."

Even so, he cautioned that Nato members had to be "consistent and clear" in what is expected in terms of "sovereignty, air space and territory."

He said, "We're making good progress on what things we need to do to change our posture, our responsiveness, our force structure and the future to address a more assertive Russia."

At the committee, which meets twice a year to discuss Nato operations and missions, allied defence chiefs reaffirmed their condemnation of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and Moscow's "continued active participation and support" for separatists in Eastern Ukraine. 

They also affirmed their "enduring commitment" to Afghanistan and Nato missions there providing training, advice and assistance to Afghan security forces and institutions.

It was the last Alliance chiefs of defence meeting before the Nato summit in Warsaw this July.

 

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