Russia disturbed by US forces’ move
* US may move military bases from Germany to countries nearer Russian border
* Washington seeks to assauge Moscow’s concerns
MOSCOW: Russia is concerned about the possible relocation of US troops in Europe closer to its borders, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday.
Ivanov said that Washington had informed Moscow that it was considering moving its military bases from Germany to Poland, Romania and some other European countries but hadn’t yet made a final decision.
The United States has sought to assuage Moscow about the move, Ivanov said, but he added that the Russian leadership is still worried. “Moving any military infrastructure closer to our borders can’t but cause our concern,” he said at a news conference in the Siberian city of Omsk, according to the Interfax-Military News and ITAR-Tass news agencies.
Under former President Boris Yeltsin, Russia strongly opposed NATO’s move to incorporate past Soviet allies in eastern and central Europe, but President Vladimir Putin softened Moscow’s opposition to the alliance’s eastward expansion after signing a partnership agreement with NATO in May 2002.
Russia’s relations with the United States and NATO flourished thanks to Putin’s steadfast support for the US-led war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 2001 terror attacks, but Moscow warned both Washington and NATO against deploying weapons closer to Russian borders.
In October, Russia’s Defence Ministry released a document saying that Moscow might rethink its nuclear strategy if NATO maintains its current “offensive” military doctrine. Ivanov then also warned that Russia would not rule out the preventive use of force if its interests and alliance obligations demand it. The Russian statements have troubled NATO officials, who prodded Ivanov for explanations when he attended an alliance meeting last fall. Ivanov said that a possible pre-emptive attack would not involve nuclear weapons and emphasised that Russia remains committed to cooperation with NATO. —AP