VILNIUS — NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia on Jan. 19 to refrain from building up its military near the alliance’s borders, saying it was a concern.
Rasmussen questioned Russian moves to bolster its forces in its Kaliningrad territory, which borders NATO members Lithuania and Poland, part of Moscow’s Cold War-era stamping ground.
“These Russian statements are, of course, a matter of concern for NATO allies,” Rasmussen said. “It is a complete waste of Russian financial resources because it is a buildup of offensive military capacities directed against an artificial enemy, an enemy that doesn’t exist.
“NATO has no intention whatsoever to attack Russia,” he added, speaking alongside Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
Moscow has warned that it plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, and earlier this month, Russian media reported that an S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system would go into service there in April.
Russia repeatedly has said it will be forced to take additional measures if it fails to agree with NATO on a missile defense shield.
The U.S. insists a shield is needed against potential threats from Iran, but Russia counters that anti-missile facilities planned in Poland would undermine its own security.
Rasmussen said it was time for a reality check.
“It doesn’t make sense to build up offensive military capacities in the Kaliningrad region,” he said. “I would encourage the Russians to face a new reality. We are not enemies. We are not adversaries. We should be partners, and it would be of mutual benefit if we develop peaceful cooperation.”
Lithuania and fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia are nervous about Russian military moves. They won independence in 1991 after five decades of Soviet rule, joined NATO and the EU in 2004, and have strained relations with Moscow.
“Russian actions do not increase trust between NATO and Russia,” Grybauskaite said. “We invite Russia to be open for dialogue, to see new threats and realities, and to seek smart defense.”
With a population of 6.3 million and professional forces of 20,500, the Baltic states lack enough fighter planes to police their skies. Other NATO members therefore take turns doing so, from a base in Lithuania.
Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia want to extend the air patrol accord, which expires in 2014. Rasmussen said he was hopeful NATO’s upcoming summit in Chicago would approve a “long-term arrangement.”