Date
19 September 2017
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is defending NATO actions in the face of what he describes as dangerous provocations from Russia. Photo: Reuters
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is defending NATO actions in the face of what he describes as dangerous provocations from Russia. Photo: Reuters

Russia, NATO ramp up tensions over northern Europe

Russia is ramping up military exercises in northern Europe and the Baltics after accusing NATO of destabilizing the region.

More Russian drills will be held in 2015 than this year, including one in the Central military district that includes Moscow, and another involving Belarus, Reuters reported Tuesday.

NATO said it has beefed up defences of its members since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March and began backing separatists in parts of Ukraine the Kremlin now calls “New Russia”. At least 4,300 people have died in the conflict.

“It is entirely appropriate for NATO countries in particular to work together to respond to what is a change of Russia’s dealings with NATO and indeed the non-NATO European countries,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told a parliamentary committee in London.

Throughout the Ukraine crisis, Moscow has accused the western military alliance of promoting instability and has staged war games at critical junctures.

“They are trying to destabilise the most stable region in the world — northern Europe,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said.

“The endless military exercises, transferring aircraft capable of carrying nuclear arms to the Baltic states. This reality is extremely negative.”

NATO accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to Ukraine in recent days to aid the pro-Moscow separatists in violation of a ceasefire. Moscow denied the allegation.

“We see a significant military buildup in and around Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels.

“Large transfers of Russian advanced weapons, equipment and military personnel to violent separatists.”

Most former communist countries of eastern Europe have joined NATO since the 1990s, although the three Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are the only parts of the former Soviet Union itself to join. Ukraine is not a NATO member.

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