Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said the European Union “is becoming militarised at a record rate” and there was now little difference between the EU and NATO.
Lavrov told a news conference on Tuesday at the United Nations in New York that a recently signed declaration essentially states that the NATO military alliance of 31 members will ensure the security of the 27-member EU bloc.
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He appeared to be referring to an EU-NATO declaration in January on their “strategic partnership” which called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades”, but the declaration does not state that NATO will ensure the security of the EU.
“NATO and the European Union (EU) cooperate on issues of common interest and are working side by side in crisis management, capability development and political consultations, as well as providing support to their common partners in the east and south,” NATO states on its website.
Lavrov was asked whether the war in Ukraine was a miscalculation on Russia’s part, as since Moscow’s invasion Finland had joined NATO, with Sweden expected to join next, and Ukraine also lobbying for membership.
“NATO never had any intention of stopping,” he replied, referring to what Moscow views as the Western military alliance’s expansion towards its borders.
Lavrov also referenced actions in recent years that saw Sweden and Finland “increasingly taking part in NATO military exercises and other actions that were meant to synchronise the military programmes of NATO members and neutral states”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long complained about NATO’s expansion and even used that as a justification for invading Ukraine.
Visiting Kyiv last week, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine’s “rightful place” was in the military alliance and pledged more support for the country in its fight against Russia.
Lavrov said Russia was promised on several occasions that NATO would not expand, but he added “those were lies”.
“Unbiased assessments that our political scientists as well as those abroad made is that NATO sought to break Russia apart,” he said.
“But in the end, it only made it stronger, brought it closer together. So, let’s not make any hasty conclusions now as to what this will all end in,” he added.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Wednesday that two of its Tu-160 strategic missile carrier bombers had completed a planned, more than 14-hour flight over the neutral waters of the Barents and Norwegian Seas, while the German Air Force said NATO planes had intercepted three Russian reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
The two Russian Su-27 fighter planes and an Ilyushin IL-20 aircraft were flying without transmitting transponder signals, the German Air Force said.
NATO states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have their own fighter jets, so the military alliance has been securing their airspace in Northeastern Europe since 2004 with the assistance of air forces from other NATO members.