Russia: NATO 'aggravating tensions' by boosting E.Europe military presence

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NATO is ratcheting up tensions by boosting its military presence on Europe's eastern flank and Moscow will adapt its defense policy accordingly, a senior Russian official said Tuesday, AFP reported.

NATO's planned action at this week's summit "is evidence of the desire of US and NATO leaders to continue their policy of aggravating tensions with Russia", Mikhail Popov, the deputy head of Russia's National Security Council, told RIA-Novosti news agency in an interview.

"I have no doubt that the question of the approach of NATO members' military infrastructure to our border" will be taken into consideration as "one of the foreign military threats to Russia" when the country's defense doctrine is updated later this year, he said.

At a summit in Wales on Thursday and Friday NATO leaders are expected to approve deployment of thousands of NATO troops and military equipment to Eastern Europe.

While that is intended to reassure NATO member states in the former Soviet bloc, it is angering the Kremlin as it challenges a key understanding that NATO would not station troops and weapons in new members.

This increased commitment in the east will involve the rotation of troops through member states at upgraded military facilities, with equipment pre-positioned to speed up the response time.

Since the troops would not be permanently based there, the alliance does not see it as breaching the terms of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act which fixed Europe's post-Cold War borders.

The idea of the expansion of NATO into former Soviet states, which started with the Baltic countries in 2004, continues to rankle with the Kremlin.

Popov said that U.S. and NATO leaders reassured Moscow that they are not Russia's enemy and would never attack Russia, "but is this so?"

"The reassured us of their good intentions, but their actions of recent years tell completely different story," he said.

Russia's recent actions have been motivated by a desire to thwart NATO expansion.

President Vladmir Putin justified the seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine earlier this year in order to prevent NATO from taking it over.

The barely covert support for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine is also seen by analysts as being aimed at destabilizing Ukraine and discouraging NATO from considering a membership bid from Kiev.

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