Russia has criticised US plans to position troops, tanks and other armored vehicles full time along NATO’s eastern borders, and said that Moscow is preparing a “completely asymmetrical” response to the deployments.
Alexandr Grushko, Russia’s Ambassador to NATO said on Thursday that Moscow would not act like a “passive observer” but would rather undertake all those military measures needed to counter the “totally unjustified increased military presence.”
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“Of course, our response will be completely asymmetrical. It will be calibrated to match our ideas about the degree of military threat, to be most efficient and not overly expensive,” Grushko said.
Since 2014, the US has been intermittently rotating some 4,200 troops in and out of Europe, Separately, some 62,000 US military personnel are assigned permanently on the continent.
The Pentagon, however, announced on Wednesday that it is seeking to divide the rotational force among the six eastern NATO member states of Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria for permanent presence.
It further announced plans to start rotating an additional full armored brigade in and out of Eastern Europe as part of the US President Barack Obama administration’s “European Reassurance Initiative.”
In another interview, with Russia’s Izvestia daily on Thursday, Grushko said Moscow views the troop rotation as a violation of a 1990s agreement between Russia and NATO, which bans additional combat troop deployment to Eastern Europe.
In a third interview, with Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, the Russian envoy also warned that the US plans weaken European security, describing the initiatives as a “further step establishing NATO’s transition to confrontational patterns.”
“No-one can be misled any more by talks about NATO’s military activities having only a rotational character,” he said.
The Western military alliance has been deploying troops and equipment close to Russia’s borders since it suspended all ties with Moscow in April 2014 after the Crimean Peninsula integrated into the Russian Federation following a referendum.
The United States and its European allies accuse Moscow of destabilizing Ukraine and have imposed a number of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects having a hand in the Ukrainian crisis.
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