Russia accused NATO on Monday of destabilizing northern Europe and the Baltics by carrying out drills there and announced new military exercises of its own, increasing tension over the Ukraine crisis.
NATO responded by blaming Moscow for instability in the region, while British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was concerned by “extremely aggressive” probing of Britain’s air space by Russian planes.
“It is entirely appropriate for NATO countries in particular to work together to respond to what is a change of Russia’s dealings with NATO and indeed the non-NATO European countries,” he told a parliamentary committee in London.
Russia announced it would hold more military exercises in 2015 than this year — including one in the Central military district that includes Moscow, and another involving Belarus.
NATO says it has beefed up defenses of its members since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March and began backing separatists in parts of Ukraine the Kremlin now calls “New Russia”. At least 4,300 people have died in the conflict.
Throughout the Ukraine crisis, Moscow has accused the Western military alliance of promoting instability and has staged war games at critical junctures.
“They are trying to destabilize the most stable region in the world — northern Europe,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov said of NATO in an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax. “The endless military exercises, transferring aircraft capable of carrying nuclear arms to the Baltic states. This reality is extremely negative.”
NATO says Russia has sent troops and weapons to Ukraine in recent days to aid the pro-Moscow separatists in violation of a ceasefire. Moscow denies sending troops, although many of its soldiers have died there.
“We see a significant military buildup in and around Ukraine,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels. “Large transfers of Russian advanced weapons, equipment and military personnel to violent separatists.”