We don’t want a new Cold War with Russia, says NATO chief

We don’t want a new Cold War with Russia, says NATO chief
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gestures during a joint press conference in Romania, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 09 October 2017

We don’t want a new Cold War with Russia, says NATO chief

We don’t want a new Cold War with Russia, says NATO chief

BUCHAREST: NATO’s chief said Monday the alliance does not want a “new Cold War” with Russia, despite members’ concerns about the Russian military buildup close to NATO’s border.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg spoke at the end of a four-day NATO parliamentary assembly in the Romanian capital.
“We are concerned by.... (Russia’s) lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises,” he said.
He mentioned a Russian-Belarus operation in September involving thousands of troops, tanks and aircraft held in Belarus. NATO is set to launch a new multinational force in Romania to counter Russia along its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea following the Kremlin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea.
Initially, a small force relying on troops from 10 NATO countries including Italy, Canada as well as Romania, the land, air and sea deployments will complement about 900 US troops already in place.
Still, Stoltenberg said: “Russia is our neighbor... we don’t want to isolate Russia. We don’t want a new Cold War.”
He said the 29-member alliance had increased jets patrols in the Black Sea in “response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine."
Romanian and Bulgarian pilots have conducted air exercises in the Black Sea in recent months, designed to reassure NATO members who are uneasy after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and started supporting separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking about the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan, where it retains more than 13,000 troops, Stoltenberg said “the cost of walking away would be much higher” than the human and financial cost of the mission.
Afghanistan would descend into chaos and become a safe haven for international terrorists should NATO pull out, he said.
NATO says the Taliban have expanded their control of parts of the country after the alliance ended its combat mission in 2014. Some alliance troops have remained to train and advise Afghan forces under the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
“We have been there for many years, but we have achieved many things... it is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists,” Stoltenberg said. “We are in Afghanistan to protect ourselves.”
“Our purpose is peace, not war,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. “We are not a threat for Russia. But we need dialogue from a strong position of defense and discouragement.”
Russia accuses NATO of trying to encircle it and threatening stability in Eastern Europe, which NATO denies. Around the Black Sea, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are NATO members while Georgia and Ukraine aspire to join.
The NATO force aims to develop its allied presence in the Black Sea region, rich in oil and gas, without escalating tensions.
Aside from Romania, Poland is the biggest troop contributor. Bulgaria, Italy and Portugal will train regularly with the force in Craiova, and Germany is also expected to contribute.
In addition to existing NATO Black Sea naval patrols, a maritime presence will include more allied visits to Romanian and Bulgarian ports, training and exercises.
NATO air forces will also be limited at first but Britain is deploying fighter planes to Romania. Canada is already patrolling Romanian airspace along with national pilots. Italy is patrolling Bulgarian airspace.