Russian Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko’s interview with Izvestia

April 1, 2016

Question: How does Russia assess the US intention to deploy another armour brigade in Eastern Europe?

Alexander Grushko: We need to see how these intentions play out. Nevertheless, we assess these plans not only in terms of what the United States can additionally deploy on NATO’s “eastern flank” but also in the context of the aggregate measures that have already been taken.

Regarding the new force deployment pattern on NATO’s “eastern periphery”, this involves a qualitative change in the configuration of this presence and a significant deterioration of the situation in the military sphere.

Presently, US forces are constantly rotated in six Eastern European countries and there are continuous exercises with the participation not only of US but also European contingents. The naval grouping in the Baltic has been reinforced. Storage depots have been set up for equipment used by rotation units during joint exercises with national contingents. Troop reinforcement infrastructure continues to be upgraded. Military activity in the airspace along our borders has intensified. The number of reconnaissance flights has drastically increased. There is constant talk about increasing the military presence in the Black Sea.

All of this goes to show that the “containment” policy that was initially declared in word is now followed up by specific military-planning decisions. This creates a long-term negative trend not only for regional security but also for European security as a whole.

Another problem is that no one knows how far this process will go. The decision to deploy an additional armour brigade is announced at a time when nothing critical is happening with regard to NATO interests on the “eastern flank”.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that these military preparations have no basis in reality. There is no direct threat either to Poland or to the Baltic countries but the information campaign continues to gather momentum. Absurd horror stories to the effect that Russia would have attacked the Baltic countries if NATO had not taken measures and deployed its troops in the region continue making the rounds. All indications point to a serious change for the worse in the military situation.

Question: Are there grounds to say that NATO actions violate agreements with Russia, in particular the Founding Act of 1997?

Alexander Grushko: An additional armour brigade to reinforce the “eastern flank” is in conflict with the spirit of the Founding Act. Meanwhile, NATO alleges that all military efforts are in full compliance with the Russia-NATO Founding Act whereby NATO pledged not to deploy additional significant combat forces on a permanent basis.

We have stated more than once that continuous rotation does not differ in any way from constant deployment. I should point out, however, that two bases of the European segment of the global missile defence system are under construction. The base in Romania is now at combat readiness and is due to be placed under NATO command in May. The construction of the facility in Poland is in progress. The bases definitely fall under the definition of “significant” and have a permanent character.

Question: In what way will the strengthening of the US contingent impact Russia-NATO collaboration?

Alexander Grushko
: In no way. There is no collaboration. In April 2014, NATO countries took the decision to halt all collaboration with Russia and all projects were put on hold. Today, we do not have a positive agenda with NATO.

We often hear NATO representatives say they are ready for dialogue. Dialogue through the permanent mission continues. We have good contacts with the alliance leadership, with all missions to NATO, but these contacts cannot substitute for the Russia-NATO collaboration that was built over the years to ensure the security of all Russia-NATO Council members in a number of areas. We worked together on Afghanistan. We did a good deal of work in fighting terrorism not only in terms of threat assessment and sharing experience but also in implementing projects designed to rule out tragedies like the one in Brussels.

Question: What is the status of the Russia-NATO Council activity?

Alexander Grushko: Formally, the council activity has not been halted. Upon our initiative, it was convened for an emergency meeting in June 2014 in connection with the start of a punitive operation by the Kiev authorities in southeastern Ukraine. No meetings have been held since. Work is underway for the next meeting but no decision has been made yet.

Question: Can the CFE Treaty be invoked in the present situation?

Alexander Grushko: The US military buildup is proceeding amid the erosion of the arms control regime in Europe. The CFE regime was the cornerstone of European security. It set ceilings on the main categories of weapon systems and ensured effective information-sharing and an intrusive verification regime.

In the early 1990s, it became clear that the treaty did not measure up to the new political realities and adaptation talks began. These efforts ended up with the signing of the Adapted CFE Treaty. It was more in sync with the new realities. In particular, it envisioned specific mechanisms of using political tools in case forces are deployed above the established quota limits. In 2004, Russia ratified the treaty, but NATO countries dragged their feet on the ratification under contrived pretexts. As a result, it did not come into effect. As the CFE Treaty has lost contact with reality, there is reason to say that the arms control regime in Europe is now dead. This further compounds the security situation. However, this choice was made by the NATO countries themselves.