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German foreign minister accuses Nato of 'warmongering' with military exercises that could worsen tensions with Russia

Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the military alliance to prioritise diplomacy

Lizzie Dearden
Saturday 18 June 2016 12:43 BST
An amphibious bridge across the Vistula river during the NATO Anaconda-16 exercise in Chelmno, Poland, 13 June 2016.
An amphibious bridge across the Vistula river during the NATO Anaconda-16 exercise in Chelmno, Poland, 13 June 2016. (EPA)

The German foreign minister has accused Nato of “warmongering” with exercises in Eastern Europe that could worsen tensions with Russia.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that extensive military drill and deployment could worsen rather than improve regional security.

"What we should not do now is inflame the situation with sabre-rattling and warmongering,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance's eastern border will bring security is mistaken.

NATO allies launch annual war games exercise

"We are well-advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”

Nato is currently staging a simulated attack on Poland involving more than 30,000 troops and has announced the “strengthening” of defences in Ukraine, while sending battalions to two of Russia’s neighbours.

Large-scale military drills, which take place every two years, are intended to test the alliance’s ability to respond to threats.

About 12,000 Polish and 14,000 US troops are taking part in exercises code named Anaconda-16 that started earlier this month, as well as 1,000 from the UK and others from Nato states and five other nations.

Polish paratroopers land near Torun, central Poland, on June 7, 2016, as part of the NATO Anaconda-16 military exercise. (AFP/Getty Images)

The drills feature fighter jets, warships and thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles.

Tensions between Nato and Russia remain high over the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which was awarded increased funding and assistance this week.

Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s Secretary General, called on Russia to “stop supporting the militants and withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territory” – two allegations that the Kremlin denies.

Nato defence ministers also agreed to “strengthen defence and deterrence” on Tuesday by announcing the deployment of four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Russia has repeatedly said it considers Nato troops close to its borders to be a threat to its security.

“For some reason, Nato infrastructure must constantly be expanded and moved closer to the Russian borders,” Vladimir Putin told a forum in St Petersburg on Friday.

“If we continue following such logic, act to escalate and intensify efforts to scare each other, then one day we may come to a Cold War.

“We (Russia) have a completely different logic, it is aimed at cooperation and search for compromise.”

Mr Steinmeier urged the military alliance to turn to dialogue and partnership, as well as building the case for disarmament, as Nato and Russia face joint threats in the Middle East.

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