Germany warns Nato against 'warmongering'

It points to deployment of troops in four countries near their borders with Russia

BERLIN • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has criticised Nato for having a bellicose policy towards Russia, describing it as "warmongering", the German daily Bild reported.

Mr Steinmeier pointed to the deployment of Nato troops near borders with Russia in the military alliance's Baltic and East European member states.

"What we should avoid today is inflaming the situation by warmongering and stomping boots," he told Bild in an interview to be published today. "Anyone who thinks you can increase security in the alliance with symbolic parades of tanks near the eastern borders is mistaken," Germany's top diplomat added.

Nato had announced last Monday that it would deploy four battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to counter a more assertive Russia, ahead of a landmark summit in Warsaw next month.

All four countries were once ruled from Moscow and remain deeply suspicious of Russian intentions, especially after Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

WRONG MOVE

What we should avoid today is inflaming the situation by warmongering and stomping boot. Anyone who thinks you can increase security in the alliance with symbolic parades of tanks near the eastern borders is mistaken.

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, on the deployment of four Nato battalions

In an interview with Bild on Thursday, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russia is seeking to create "a zone of influence through military means".

"We are observing massive militarisation at Nato borders - in the Arctic, in the Baltic, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea," he told the newspaper.

Mr Stoltenberg has stressed that Nato does not seek confrontation with Russia and wants a constructive dialogue but that it would defend the 28 allies against any threat. Russia bitterly opposes Nato's expansion into its Soviet-era satellites and last month said it would create three new divisions in its south-west region to meet what it described as a dangerous military build-up along its borders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday lambasted Nato for continuing to move closer to Russia's borders a quarter century after the Soviet Union's demise.

He accused the Western alliance of being completely "contemptuous" towards his nation.

"If we continue to act according to this logic, stirring up tensions and building up forces to scare each other, we will eventually get to another Cold War," Mr Putin said in an address to the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"We have a totally different logic - we are looking for cooperation to reach a compromise," he said.

Mr Putin, who was joined at the annual showcase event in his home town by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, said his country wanted to restore its relationship with the European Union, Russia's main trading partner.

At the same time, however, he ruled out unilateral concessions and accused Nato of menacing Russia's borders. "The Soviet Union is no longer, the Warsaw Pact is no longer," Mr Putin said. "Why does the alliance have to continuously expand its infrastructure up to Russia's borders?" he asked.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE,BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Germany warns Nato against 'warmongering''. Print Edition | Subscribe