Russia has warned NATO against military buildup in Poland, saying Moscow will proportionately respond to such a move.
The head of a foreign ministry department in charge of Russian relations with Europe said on Saturday that Moscow’s “response, as always, will be proportionate and appropriate.” Oleg Tyapkin said any possible response would be “intended to neutralize potential threats to the security of the Russian Federation.”
Tyapkin made the remarks a day after a meeting in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, where nine Central and Eastern European countries asked NATO to boost its eastern flank. Leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia attended the event.
“In view of the increased security risks in Romania and the Black Sea, consolidating NATO on its eastern flank, in a unified and balanced manner, becomes all the more urgent and crucial,” said Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the opening of the meeting.
Russia has long expressed grievances to the United States about NATO’s eastward expansion, and says Washington has repeatedly ignored the Kremlin’s concerns about the security of its western borders. Last month, NATO’s Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said the alliance is no longer bound by past commitments to hold back from deploying forces in Eastern Europe.
NATO has sharply increased its presence at its eastern border, with some 40,000 troops spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The alliance is also seeking to deploy four new combat units in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has on several occasions cited the post-Soviet expansion of NATO eastwards as a reason for Russia’s current military operation in Ukraine. Key to its list of security demands from the West prior to the operation in Ukraine was a guarantee that Kiev would never be part of NATO.
Putin eventually declared a military campaign in eastern Ukraine on February 24 to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” the country.
Russia has repeatedly warned the expansion of NATO infrastructure in Ukraine constitutes a red line for Moscow and that any future expansion must exclude Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.