Russia Says Will Respond to NATO Military Buildup

Russia Says Will Respond to NATO Military BuildupRussia Says Will Respond to NATO Military Buildup

NATO military buildup near Russia’s border does not contribute to the restoration of trust in the Euroatlantic space, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

“We have confirmed our stance that military buildup near our border does not contribute to the restoration of trust in the Euroatlantic,” the Russian foreign minister said during a news conference with his Spanish counterpart.

Lavrov added that “we are forced to react in an adequate way, but we are sure that these problems need to be solved through an equal dialog based on mutual respect,” Sputnik said in a report.

Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March 2014 and the start of an internal armed conflict in Ukraine’s southeast in April, NATO has been boosting its military presence near Russia’s borders, including in the Baltic states.

On February 5, NATO defense ministers agreed to set up a new high-readiness force dubbed Spearhead Force as part of the NATO Response Force. Altogether, the enhanced Response Force will be increased and count up to around 30,000 troops.

The ministers also decided to establish six command and control units in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania tasked with “ensuring that national and NATO forces from across the Alliance are able to act as one from the start” if a crisis arises.

  Abandoning Crimea Not an Option

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia took over Crimea because it had to protect Crimea’s mostly ethnic-Russian population after pro-western Ukrainian nationalists came to power in Ukraine.

In the latest preview of an upcoming documentary called “Homeward bound” on state-run Rossiya-1 television, Putin elaborated on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“We were forced to start working on returning Crimea to Russia because we could not abandon this territory and the people who live there to the mercy of fate, to be crushed by nationalists,” Putin said.

Putin pinned the blame for what Moscow calls a coup in Kiev on nationalists supported by western countries “thousands of kilometers away,” AFP reported.

“It wasn’t us who committed a coup d’etat, it was done by nationalists and people with extreme views, they were given support,” Putin said. “But we are here, this is our land.”

In the upcoming documentary, Putin said his first step was to order an opinion poll on the population’s intentions. It found 75 percent support for joining Russia, he said, adding that his decision to annex the territory only came later in response to the upheaval in Kiev.

“The final aim was not to seize Crimea, or some kind of annexation. The final aim was to give people the opportunity to express their opinion on how they want to live further,” Putin insisted, referring to the referendum which was condemned by western capitals as forced upon the population.

“We know the results of the referendum and we acted as we were obliged to act,” Putin said.

  Ukraine Solution Long Way Off

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Tuesday that a solution to the crisis in Ukraine was still a long way off, and that Ukraine will need significant support given the dire state of its economy.

“The road on which we have been and we are on, is probably the first step for calming down the situation, but we all know that we are still very far from a solution,” Steinmeier said through an interpreter during a visit to Bulgaria.

“And I need to underline again the financial engagement which we will have to Ukraine, given its grave economic situation.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday pro-Russian rebels had withdrawn a significant amount of weaponry from the frontlines in eastern Ukraine in accordance with a three-week-old ceasefire deal.

Under a ceasefire reached in February, both sides were due to pull back heavy weapons by the beginning of March. The ceasefire appears to be taking hold despite continuing clashes.

At least 6,000 people are believed to have been killed and more than one million have fled their homes since conflict erupted last April in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.