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As NATO Tensions Laid Bare, Russia Warns U.S. over Naval Incident

As NATO Tensions Laid Bare, Russia Warns U.S. over Naval Incident
While warning the US of military response with "all necessary measures" to any future incidents, Russia accused the United States of intimidation by sailing a U.S. naval destroyer close to Russia's border in the Baltics.
Moscow's ambassador to NATO said the April 11 maritime incident showed there could be no improvement in ties until the U.S.-led alliance withdrew from Russia's borders while speaking after a meeting between NATO envoys and Russia, their first in almost two years.
"This is about attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia. We will take all necessary measures, precautions, to compensate for these attempts to use military force," the envoy, Alexander Grushko, said.
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute pressed Russia about the incident, warning it had been dangerous. The United States has said that the guided missile destroyer USS Cook was harassed by Russian jets while it was on routine business near Poland.
"We were in international waters," a NATO diplomat reported Lute as telling Grushko during the NATO-Russia council meeting.
The public comments highlighted the state of tension that persists between the sides since Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine despite what officials said was a calm and professional meeting.
Grushko's account of the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where 9,000 people have died since April 2014 was rejected by the NATO member states, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg said that each side urgently needed to talk more and to use existing rules to reduce military risk while there were "profound disagreements" over how to handle Europe's security.
The rules for large-scale exercises and other military activity, as well as telephone hotlines and other military communication channels are set out in a Cold War-era treaty known as the Vienna document and Stoltenberg suggested revamping of the treaty.
"We have to use our lines of communication," he said.
The presence of a rotating, multinational force in Poland and the Baltics is Russia's chief concern is NATO's biggest modernization since the Cold War. This modernization effort is likely to include a military build-up in eastern Europe.
NATO says that the alliance had no forces in eastern Europe before the Ukraine crisis and the plans are a proportionate response to Russian aggression following Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
An increase in the Russian military presence in its Kaliningrad enclave, where Russia is positioning longer-range surface-to-air missiles is a worry for Poland and other NATO members in the Baltics.
Concerns about Russia's so-called snap exercises where thousands of Russian troops carry out war games without any prior warning were expressed by NATO envoys.
Stoltenberg said NATO members had rejected Grushko's description of the crisis in eastern Ukraine as a civil war.
"In the meeting, it was re-confirmed that we disagree on the facts, on the narrative and the responsibilities in and around Ukraine. Many allies disagree when Russia tries to portray this as a civil war. This is Russia destabilizing eastern Ukraine, providing support for the separatists, munitions, funding, equipment and also command and control," Stoltenberg said after the meeting.
"So there were profound disagreements," he said.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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