NATO draws up anti-Russia Baltics plan: WikiLeaks
NATO has made plans to defend the Baltic states against Russia, US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed Tuesday, bewildering Moscow just weeks after a breakthrough summit with the alliance.
An existing defence plan covering Poland was extended to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after they lobbied for extra protection, said the leaked cables, revealed in Britain's Guardian daily and other Western newspapers.
The leaked correspondence reveals that US admiral James Stavridis, NATO's top commander in Europe, proposed drawing up defence plans for the three Baltic states, which had joined the military alliance in 2004.
NATO military officials agreed in January this year to a new regional defence scheme codenamed Eagle Guardian that grouped the Baltic states with Poland, the cables said, according to the Guardian.
The Baltics were reportedly delighted at their inclusion. The Latvians expressed "profound happiness" at the decision, while an Estonian called it an "early Christmas present," according to two cables.
NATO clearly realised the sensitivity of the agreement and advised the Baltic states not to reveal the details of the plan so as not to anger Russia, the cables said.
A Russian Foreign Ministry source responded by expressing puzzlement at the revelations, which it said contradicted a joint Russia-NATO declaration not to use force or threat of force against each other, signed at a November summit.
"Such publications raise many questions in Russia and leave us perplexed," the source said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.
The diplomat said Russia did not understand why NATO members patrolled the Baltics in fighter jets and in a sharp rebuke said NATO should "develop the potential to react to real and not imaginary threats."
In turn, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu stressed NATO did not regard Russia as a threat and recalled that Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the summit last month that "NATO and Russia pose no threat to each other.
While not confirming the leaks, Lungescu pointed out that NATO's core mission is to protect its members from attack.
The deputy chairman of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, called for Russia's envoy to NATO to demand an official explanation of the leaked plan.
Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin "should try to find out from the NATO leadership whether such plans really are being secretly developed," Slutsky said in comments to Interfax.
But Slutsky questioned whether the leaked plans reflected NATO's official position.
"I think it fully possible that such initiatives could come from those inside NATO who still see Russia as a global threat," he said. "But you cannot view information received in this way as the alliance's official position."
Russian leaders have reacted with irritation to the WikiLeaks revelations.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in an interview last week described as "slander" a humiliating comparison between his power tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev and cartoon heroes Batman and Robin.
Medvedev said last week that the leaks showed the "cynicism" of US foreign policy, despite stressing they would not affect US-Russian relations.
Russia has strained relations with the ex-Soviet Baltic states, despite their large ethnic Russian minorities. The Baltics were the first to quit the Soviet Union and joined both the European Union and NATO in 2004.
Russia complains of discrimination against ethnic Russians and has taken deep offence at attempts to rewrite its version of history in which the Soviet Union liberated the Baltic states from the Nazis, rather than occupying them.
© 2010 AFP