NATO Should Stop Worrying About Our Fighters, Russia Says

NATO fighters repeatedly confronting Russian warplanes near the borders of member states’ airspace is nothing to worry about, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

Russia is not making a fuss about increased activity around its borders by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he said, and the military alliance should do the same.

“Nothing prevents our armed forces from conducting appropriate programs, planes from flying and ships from long missions,” he said in a Nov. 15 interview. “On the contrary, the situation in the world has not become easier.”

Russia is engaged in its most serious confrontation with the U.S. and the European Union since the end of the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine. NATO jets have tracked Russian military planes over the Baltics, North Sea and Atlantic in recent weeks and the alliance said interceptions have risen sharply on last year.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told Sky News in an interview aired Nov. 15 that Russian warships that sailed toward northern Australia ahead of the G-20 meeting were symbols of “international machismo.”

“For Mr Cameron, it would be best to see our ships changing props in dry docks. I am very glad that at the time of the G-20 there were ships with the St. Andrew flag,” Ryabkov said, referring to the Russian Navy ensign.

Russia is concerned that NATO is increasing activity along its borders, he said, though “we do not make any drama out of it” and “each step is not seen as a reason for far-reaching generalizations.”

‘Monitor Everything’

“We certainly do not welcome that NATO intensifies (its presence) near our borders,” he said. “We closely monitor everything that happens. We hope that NATO colleagues have the same attitude to what we do.”

Russia has said repeatedly that it is obliged to respond to what it sees as a threat from NATO expansion toward its borders. State Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev called the U.S. “one of the initiators of the conflict in Ukraine,” in comments to reporters in Moscow yesterday.

NATO jets have intercepted Russian military aircraft 400 times close to member states’ airspace this year, secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday in Riga, Latvia, a 50 percent increase on 2013. Russia hasn’t provided numbers for this year.

“Western intelligence flights near the Russian borders are much more intense,” said Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow Defense Brief magazine. “There were about 500 flights a year five year ago.”

In 2010, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to allocate more than 20 trillion rubles ($729 billion) on modernizing the country’s military through 2020. Despite economic sanctions damaging Russia’s growth, fueling inflation and hurting the ruble, Putin has vowed to keep defense funding untouched.

“We are not so poor not to take care of our own security,” said Ryabkov. There is no reason for Russia “not to show itself as a great naval power, as a country which has global interests, as a country that cares about its own interests.”

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