Putin appoints flamboyant nationalist as Russia's NATO envoy

( dpa ) - President Vladimir Putin has appointed the flamboyant nationalist Dmitry Rogozin as Russia's permanent NATO representative, in a move that could worsen already troubled relations with the western military alliance.

A Kremlin spokesman said Thursday that Putin had signed a decree appointing Rogozin to take Konstantin Totsky's place at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels.

Rogozin has accused NATO of being a tool of aggressive US interests and said last month that he would counter US plans for a missile defence system in Europe and uphold Serbia's claims over Kosovo.

Analysts viewed the choice of Rogozin Thursday as a sign of Russia's tougher stance toward its Cold War adversary. "This politician is a boxer, who has been thrown in the ring to face NATO," German political analysts Alexander Rar said, Interfax reported.NATO's expansion into post-Soviet space is resented by Russia, who considers this a breach of Cold War agreements and a security menace.

Putin, who has promoted a Russian military revival during his presidency, has threatened military retaliation against NATO "muscle-flexing" on its border and planned US missile installations in Europe.

Moscow's withdrawal this fall from a key Cold War arms restrained treaty tied to the conflict of interest over Kosovar independence exacerbated tensions and ignited security fears in Europe.

Alexey Malashenko, an analyst at the Moscow-based Carnegie Centre, called Russia's new NATO envoy "anti-western."

Rogozin, 44, gained notoriety over a 2005 campaign add under the slogan "Clean Russia of Trash" that was judged racist by Moscow courts.

The subsequent Kremlin pressure to disband his party was seen by some observers as a defence against the growing popularity of Rogozin's the fledgingly nationalists party Rodina, or Motherland, which estranged Rogozin from his former post as lawmaker.

Rar, Director of Russia and CIS Programs for the Foreign Policy Council of Germany, said Rogozin was tapped to show NATO Russia is serious about its national interest.

"The fact that [Russia] promoted a person who is not a diplomat but a tough individual, shows that he will present an undiplomatic face to NATO," he said.

Rogozin, a polyglot whose father was a Soviet military historian, previously served as Russia's representative negotiations with the European Union over the status the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

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