NATO bolsters eastern Europe amid Russia fears: WikiLeaks

7th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Military alliance NATO has expanded defence plans in parts of eastern Europe amid fears that Russia poses an increasing threat, US diplomatic cables released Tuesday by WikiLeaks showed.

Contingency plans were drawn up for the three Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- earlier this year after they lobbied for extra protection following the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, said the leaked cables.

The US has also offered to beef up Polish security amid fears of a resurgent Russia, said the cables, despite the policy of US President Barack Obama's administration to "reset" relations with Moscow.

Painful memories were stirred in the Baltic states -- all former Soviet republics -- as Russian troops poured into Georgia in August 2008, the cables show.

"Events in Georgia have dominated the news and discussion here like few other events in recent memory," said a cable from the American embassy in Riga, Latvia, cited in The New York Times.

Latvians, at least ethnic Latvians, "look at Georgia and think that this could easily be them," said the dispatch, one of some 250,000 US diplomatic cables leaked to whistleblower website WikiLeaks and now being slowly released in small batches.

US admiral James Stavridis, NATO's top commander in Europe, proposed drawing up defence plans for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which had joined the military alliance in 2004, according to the leaked correspondence.

NATO military officials agreed in January this year to the policy, which groups the Baltic states with Poland in a new regional defence scheme codenamed Eagle Guardian, said the cables, according to Britain's Guardian daily.

Earlier calls by eastern Europe for more security guarantees had been stymied by opposition from western Europe, and in particular Germany, which feared any such moves could antagonise Russia.

With regard to Polish defences, the US offered various measures which included deploying special naval forces to Baltic ports in Poland and putting squadrons of F-16 fighter aircraft into the country, according to the cables.

However, US diplomats expressed fears that the moves were not consistent with NATO's official post-Cold War policy, which is not supposed to regard Russia as a threat.

An October 2009 cable, signed by the American ambassador to NATO, Ivo H. Daalder, highlighted the concerns.

"The Baltic states clearly believe that the Russian Federation represents a future security risk and desire a contingency plan to address that risk," said the cable.

"And therein lies the problem. Post-Cold War NATO has consistently said that it no longer views Russia as a threat."

© 2010 AFP

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