Nato Chief Worried by Kaliningrad Build-up

By AFP (January 19, 2012)

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday urged Russia to refrain from building up its military near the alliance’s borders, saying it was a concern for the 28-nation organization.

Rasmussen questioned Russian moves to bolster its forces in its Kaliningrad territory, which borders NATO members Lithuania and Poland, part of Moscow’s Cold War-era stamping ground.

“These Russian statements are of course a matter of concern for NATO allies,” he told reporters in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.

“It is a complete waste of Russian financial resources, because it is a build-up of offensive military capacities directed against an artificial enemy, an enemy that doesn’t exist,” he said.

“NATO has no intention whatsoever to attack Russia,” he added, speaking alongside Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Moscow has warned that it plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, and earlier this month, Russian media reported that an S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system would go into service there in April.

Russia repeatedly has said it will be forced to take additional measures if it fails to agree with NATO on a missile defense shield.

NATO powerhouse the United States insists a shield is needed against potential threats from Iran, but Russia counters that anti-missile facilities planned in Poland would undermine its own security.

Rasmussen said it was time for a reality check.

“It doesn’t make sense to build up offensive military capacities in the Kaliningrad region. I would encourage the Russians to face a new reality, we are not enemies, we are not adversaries, we should be partners and it would be of mutual benefit if we develop peaceful cooperation,” he said.

Lithuania and fellow Baltic States Estonia and Latvia where Rasmussen was due later Thursday and Friday are jittery about Russian military moves.

They regained independence in 1991 after five decades of Soviet rule, joined NATO and the EU in 2004, and have rocky ties with Moscow.

“Russian actions do not increase trust between NATO and Russia,” Grybauskaite said. “We invite Russia to be open for dialogue, to see new threats and realities and to seek smart defense,” she added.