NATO-Russia talks must tackle Ukraine ‘withdrawal’: Poland

Russia's 2014 intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea stung NATO out of its post-Cold War complacency and into a major revamp.

By: AFP | Warsaw | Published:July 6, 2016 4:17 am
Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz speaks in front of a Polish Air Force F-16 fighter jet during a farewell ceremony of Polish soldiers leaving for Kuwait to take part in the operation Inherent Resolve , in Janow, Poland, Monday, July 4, 2016. During an interview Monday Macierewicz told The Associated Press that decisions to be approved at this week's NATO summit in Warsaw will build a force aimed at deterring any aggressive intentions by Russia against the West. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Planned NATO talks with Moscow should be focussed solely on Russia’s “withdrawal” from Ukrainian soil, Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz has said.

The minister was reacting to NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s announcement Monday that the transatlantic alliance is set to hold formal talks with Russia shortly after a summit in Warsaw this week.

“Russia is an occupying power, every day innocent people, civilians are killed by Russia soldiers who are the aggressors,” Macierewicz yesterday said on Polish public television.

“We are not going to discuss defence plans with Russia. With Russia we can only discuss when and how they are going to withdraw from the occupied territories,” in Ukraine, he added.

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Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea stung NATO out of its post-Cold War complacency and into a major revamp to boost its readiness and resources to meet a host of new security challenges

NATO leaders meeting in the Polish capital on Friday and Saturday will rubber-stamp the 28-nation alliance’s biggest military buildup since the Cold War in response to the newly resurgent Russia.

Stoltenberg said Monday that “we are working with Russia to hold another meeting of the (NATO-Russia) council shortly after the summit,” he added.

In April the NATO-Russia Council held its first meeting since June 2014 when relations were effectively frozen, and the talks ended in “profound disagreements” over Ukraine and other issues.

Russia has reacted angrily to NATO’s plans for a military build-up, with President Vladimir Putin saying the alliance is provoking an arms race “frenzy” in Europe and that Moscow would respond.

Russia bitterly opposes NATO’s expansion into its Soviet-era satellites and has said it will create three new divisions in its own southwest region to meet what it has described as a dangerous military build-up along its borders

Macierewicz said Poland would continue to press its case because Ukraine “is our nearest neighbour to this aggressive empire”.

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