After the first NATO-Russia Council meeting since the height of fighting in Ukraine failed to create any breakthroughs last week, Central and Eastern European states are beefing up regional security despite comments from the Kremlin on Tuesday that Russia still wants to develop good relations, Tass reported.
“Talking about who presents a threat for whom, I think we should probably not forget about frequent statements that we have heard over the last years from Brussels, from the headquarters, from NATO leaders, that they consider Russia as a threat,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Such statements are not only limited to words; we see real steps aimed at building up military potential, moving this military potential closer to the Russian border.”
Peskov was responding to comments from U.S. President Barack Obama that Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the military and political alliance as a threat to Russian power. Speaking in Germany on Monday with CBS News, Obama urged European Union and NATO members to increase their security spending.
“I’ve indicated to [Putin] that, in fact, a strong, unified Europe working with a strong, outward-looking Russia — that’s the right recipe,” Obama said. “So far, he has not been entirely persuaded.”
— US Mission to NATO (@USNATO) April 25, 2016
Central and Eastern European states have been calling for an increased NATO presence since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and the start of a subsequent war in Eastern Ukraine that has pitted government forces against Russian-backed fighters. The war has left more than 9,000 people dead and displaced more than 1.4 million.
In a show of strength, the U.S. flew two F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Romania on Monday, landing near the Black Sea. U.S. Ambassador Hans G. Klemm said the exercise was meant to improve European defense due to “aggression by Russia that has brought so much instability to this part of the world over the past two to three years.”
With nations wary of Russia’s intentions, Poland announced Monday it is creating a nationwide territorial defense force, with the first brigade stationed in its eastern territory. Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria are also holding discussions to establish a joint military brigade to further enhance regional security.