Stoltenberg: Russia Destabilizing Europe; Medvedev: Relations slide down toward new Cold War

MUNICH – NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that an “assertive Russia is destabilizing Europe” and that Moscow’s “rhetoric and posturing” about its nuclear might is “aimed at intimidating its neighbors” and undermining trust.

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Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 13, Stoltenberg said that NATO does not want “confrontation” with Russia or a “new Cold War,” but that its response must be firm.

He said that NATO’s moves to strengthen defenses on its eastern flank are just that — defensive — and designed “not to wage war but to prevent war.”

Stoltenberg said he expects further moves to strengthen those defenses at a NATO summit in Warsaw in July.

He called for “more defense” as well as “more dialogue” with Russia.

Stoltenberg voiced concern about an increase in Russian references to the country’s nuclear might. He said “nobody should think that” nuclear weapons can be used in a conventional war.

Medvedev: Russia-NATO relations have fallen to new Cold War level

The relationships between NATO and Russia have slid down toward a new Cold War, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a panel discussion during the Munich Security Conference, describing NATO’s policy as “unfriendly and not transparent.”

“Almost every day we are referred to as the most terrible threat to NATO as a whole or to Europe, America and other countries specifically,” Medvedev said.

“Although actual threats that exist in our small world – and I hope, you understand that – are absolutely different.”

Terrorists are gaining influence and benefiting from Russian-Western discord, Medvedev told the gathering. “Terrorism is a challenge to the whole of civilization: we must not divide terrorists into friends, enemies, extremists or ‘moderates,’” he said.

“I think Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] has to be grateful to my colleagues, some Western leaders who disabled such cooperation [between intelligence services],” Medvedev said. The PM cited cases such as the bombing of the Russian airliner over Sinai, the terror attacks in Paris, London, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq and many other countries, as well as public beheadings and brutal acts of violence, as clear evidence that international terrorism respects no borders.

Addressing Russia’s anti-IS deployment, Medvedev said the air operation is not targeting civilians. “No one has yet presented any evidence of our air strikes hitting the civilian population.”

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who took the floor before Medvedev’s address, urged Moscow to cease its anti-IS operation, claiming it was crucial to achieve peace in Syria. “France respects Russia and its interests … But we know that to find the path to peace again, the Russian bombing of civilians has to stop.”

The Russian PM called on his Western counterparts “not to threaten a ground operation” in Syria, stressing that Moscow is doing its utmost to pave the way for a lasting peace in the war-torn country.

“It is important to save a united Syrian state, preventing it from falling apart into religion-based [fragments]. The world can’t afford another Libya, Yemen or Afghanistan. The outcomes of such a scenario would be disastrous for the entire Middle East,” Medvedev said.

Only viable cooperation between Russia and the US can resolve the situation in Syria, Medvedev said. “I want to emphasize that regular cooperation between Russia and the United States will be crucial. And I mean regular – every day.”

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