Sunday, 19 June 2016

Steinmeier breaks ranks with NATO over military exercises

German foreign minister accuses Nato of 'warmongering' against Russia

The German foreign minister has broken ranks with Nato allies, accusing the alliance of “warmongering” against Russia.

18 June, 2016

Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke out against recent Nato military exercises in Poland and the Baltics, describing them as “sabre-rattling”.

The one thing we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation with loud sabre-rattling and warmongering,” the minister told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Anyone who thinks a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is wrong,” he said in excerpts released ahead of a longer interview to be published on Sunday.

We would be well advised not to provide a pretext to renew an old confrontation.”

Mr Steinmeier was speaking after Nato staged its largest war game in eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War earlier this month.

Some 31,000 troops, including 1,000 from the UK, took part in Operation Anaconda, a 10-day exercise simulating a Russian attack on Poland.

The exercise was the first time German tanks crossed Poland from west to east since the Second World War.

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, made it clear the exercise was directed against Russia.

The aim of the exercise is clear,” he said. “We are preparing for an attack.”

Mr Steinmeier’s mention of “sabre-rattling” was a clear reference to Operation Saber Strike, another exercise currently under way in the Baltic states.

Operation Saber Strike is an annual US army-led exercise held since 2010. This year it is much larger than previously and will involve some 10,000 troops from 13 countries, including the UK.

Both exercises come ahead of a Nato summit in Warsaw next month at which the alliance is expected to agree to station more troops in Poland and the Baltics to counter the threat from Russia.

Nato officials have been clear that the exercises are intended as a deterrent against Russian agression, and to reassure members along its eastern flank.

Let me be clear: there will be more Nato troops in Poland after the Warsaw Summit, to send a clear signal that an attack on Poland will be considered an attack on the whole Alliance,” Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, said last month.

We have agreed on a two-track strategy. On one side is a defensive deterrent, on the other a political dialogue with Russia.”

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