Expatica news

Germany wants NATO, Russia to restart dialogue

Germany urged NATO Tuesday to resume dialogue with Russia to avoid the risk of military misunderstandings in and around Ukraine getting “completely out of control.”

Russian intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea in March saw the alliance suspend all cooperation with Moscow through the NATO-Russia Council, which was set up in 2002 to formalise channels of communication after the end of the Cold War.

“We now have very few ways of talking about events which come up suddenly, for example military exercises, (aircraft) over-flights or the presence of Russian warships around the world,” German Foreign Minister Franz Walter Steinmeier said.

“We no longer have the possibility to determine what lies behind such moves and whether they are cause for concern or not,” he said on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

Steinmeier warned that current contacts with Russia were even less than during the Cold War and this should be changed so as to avoid events getting “completely out of control.”

As the Ukraine crisis has deepened, NATO has increased its readiness in response to what it sees as a more dangerous and assertive Russia.

Russia in turn has increased its military activity, launching high-profile aircraft sorties to test NATO’s defences and sending navy ships around the world to re-assert its status as a great power.

Diplomatic sources said Steinmeier’s plan was a trial balloon to test the reaction, with some of the 28 NATO allies offering a measure of support, among them Italy and the Netherlands.

In marked contrast, other NATO members such as the Baltic states and Poland, former Soviet era satellites, believed Moscow would only see an NRC meeting now “as a sign of weakness” by Moscow, one source said.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg, asked about the German proposal, said the alliance would “keep the channels for political dialogue open.”

There were continuing contacts, he said, on the political and military level, but to go further than that required goodwill on both sides.