The current tensions between NATO’s member nations and Russia should not be considered a new Cold War, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned Wednesday. Both the Western alliance and Russia have conducted extensive military drills in recent months while at odds over Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea and its purported intervention in the eastern Ukraine conflict.
“I think it’s not a right thing to characterize the present situation as Cold War,” Stoltenberg said at a summit of NATO foreign ministers in Antalya, Turkey, the Russian news agency Tass reports. “We are not in the same situation as we were during the Cold War period after the Second World War until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991 [actually 1989].”
“During the Cold War we had two military blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, standing against each other, and we also had an ideological fight between the two blocs and it involved actually the whole world,” said Stoltenberg, a former prime minster of Norway.
Russia drew international condemnation in early 2014 when President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to occupy the formerly Ukrainian territory of Crimea after protests in Kiev forced pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych out of office. The NATO nations have repeatedly accused the Kremlin of providing weapons and direct military support to separatist rebels in the conflict with Ukraine’s government that has killed more than 6,000 people in the last year.
The European Union imposed economic sanctions against Russia as punishment for its actions. Meanwhile, NATO expanded its “rapid reaction force” earlier this year to include 30,000 soldiers, including a spearhead unit of 5,000. The alliance also carried out extensive naval training exercises in the North Sea this month.
Russia’s military has also displayed an uptick in activity. The Kremlin recently ordered an expansion of long-range bomber patrols, while the nation’s land, sea and air forced have drilled in areas as remote as the Arctic Circle.
Despite his dismissal of the idea of a new Cold War, Stoltenberg acknowledged that diplomatic relations are less than ideal. “But neither are we in the strategic partnership that we tried to develop between NATO and Russia,” he said. “We are in something which is different, therefore we have to adapt ourlines to a new security environment, and that’s exactly what we are doing.”