12.10.2017 | 'It's a violation' Russia 'concerned' about multinational NATO forces amassing on border
Source - The Daily Express
Russia-based international relations and security analyst Mark Sleboda is a frequent critic of US and NATO policy.
He said that Moscow is “concerned” about the development of a new NATO force on Russia’s borders.
The force is a response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
It will initially compose of a Romanian force of up to 4,000 soldiers, supported by troops from nine other NATO countries and 900 US troops.
Mr Sleboda said: “It's got Moscow more than a little concerned because at first, we saw these four permanent/rotating brigades, which was violating the NATO Russia Founding Act."
That act was signed in 1997 between NATO and Russia. The treaty pledges that both parties are not adversaries but rather partners in building "a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area."
According to Sleboda, NATO gets around this by rotating the 4,000 troops in and out.
He said that this is the second NATO military increase in the region within the last year, referring to the battalion deployed to Poland in April.
Mr Sleboda added: “It not only involves NATO-Romanian relations, but we're talking about the NATO footprint in the Black Sea — what they're referring to as their Tailored Forward Presence.”
There has also been an increased NATO naval presence in the Black Sea since around 2014.
Mr Sleboda continued: "There have been almost continuous US missile cruisers in the Black Sea and they have announced it in cooperation with those multinational force brigade.
“There will be increased naval presence beyond the Black Sea. We've seen a number of significant NATO military exercises and naval military exercises in the Black Sea and that is only going to increase as a result of this."
Appearing on a local radio programme, Mr Sleboda was asked if he thought the presence of NATO troops in a country so close to Russia might lead the powers into conflict.
The expert does not think there will be direct engagement, but he said that it would "put pressure on the situation".
He said: "A number of frozen conflicts are occurring in countries on Russia's borders that have significant ethnic Russian populations and NATO is attempting to move into these countries and absorb them into NATO and the EU as a bastion against Russia.
"We get the arguments that Russia is conducting troops against NATO's own borders. That's because you move your borders right up to the Russian border. Russia is only conducting military exercises within its own borders."
But Russia conducted recent exercises outside its borders in September when 100,000 Russian troops took part in drills in Belarus.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly of alliance lawmakers that the new multinational force’s purpose is “peace, not war”.
He added: “We are not a threat to Russia. But we need dialogue from a strong position of defence and discouragement.”