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EuroABM project preludes NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe — Russian deputy FM

The EuroABM project preludes NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe. The alliance wants to redraw the entire strategic scheme in this part of the globe, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov said on Wednesday.

"Problems in our relations with NATO have been accumulating for years. There is one thing, which has been totally forgotten: in 1991-1994, Russia withdrew almost a million soldiers from the territories of European countries. Now, a third positioning area is being prepared in Poland for deploying a missile defense system in Europe. Everybody has forgotten that Russia withdrew 20 ballistic missile launchers from Poland in its time," Meshkov stressed.

"We pulled them out and now we have got EuroABM in return. Naturally, Ukraine is not the source of European security problems, which are linked to attempts to fully redraw the entire strategic scheme in Europe, of which EuroABM is certainly the key element. It preludes the start of NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe," the Russian diplomat explained.

Meshkov said that Russia would have to react if NATO started building its military potential in Europe.

"Of course, this cannot but be a source of our real concern and will force us to take counter measures," the Russian diplomat said.

According to him, a myth that NATO's buildup in Europe is a consequence of the Ukraine crisis is totally unfounded. "The talk about the need to step up work to protect NATO members started at the time when NATO decided to end its mission in Afghanistan," Meshkov stressed.

"What's happening today is the logical continuation of NATO's policy," the Russian diplomat added.

Touching upon Russia's relations with the European Union, Meshkov said the EU was pondering over its faulty sanctions policy more frequently.

"Most sectoral dialogues with EU have been stopped. So we can hardly talk about any positive trends," Meshkov said.

"But as for our bilateral relations with the EU countries and the offices of the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, our contacts continue," he said.

"Our partners have come to ponder over the faulty policy line towards Russia which they have been pursuing of late more frequently," Meshkov stressed.

He believes it is unnecessary to pay any great attention to PACE's attacks on Russia because the body's political influence is small.

"I would not make a fetish of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Many European politicians and diplomats do not even know that it exists. They are interested in the executive power bodies," the Russian diplomat went on to say.

Meshkov, however, called for Russia's ongoing contacts with the Council of Europe.

"Russia needs this organization," he said. "The reason for that is simple: this organization works out legal norms for the European continent; all European states take part in its work except for Belarus, which is still in the process of joining the organization," the Russian diplomat stressed.

Russia's relations with EU, NATO in doldrums

According to Alexey Meshkov, Russia's relations with the European Union and NATO are facing difficult times.

"For the first time in decades we are seeing a sharp decline in our trade with the European Union," he said. Meshkov said it exceeded $450 billion in 2013, declining to $370 billion last year with the tendency continuing.

The deputy minister said trade was shrinking because of a decline in cooperation between Russia and the European Union. "Our contacts at the summit level have been practically severed, there have been no summits for a second year running," he spoke about the summits that used to take place twice a year.

"The Permanent Partnership Council at the level of the Russian foreign minister and the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy is not functioning either," he added.

"Business as usual" impossible in ties with EU

In Mesjkov's words, "business as usual" is impossible in relations with the European Union.

"I hope relations with the EU are moving towards realism. The events of this year have opened the eyes of many of our European partners," he continued.

"Of course 'business as usual' as they say is impossible," he said, explaining that "Russia will never get back to the system in which decisions, that are worked out without our participation, are imposed on us," he said.

This means we are ready to speak as equals, work on equal terms and move forward," Meshkov added. "Whether our European partners are ready for this, this is the question to them," he said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 11Nov15]

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