Russia warns of response as NATO returns to Cold War ‘schemes’

NATO summit outcome to be analysed for threats posed to Russia’s security and ‘all means’ available in response.

From left, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO summit in Vilnius
From left, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in background, at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, 2023 [Yves Herman/Reuters]

Russia has said the latest NATO summit demonstrates that the Western military alliance has returned to “Cold War schemes”, and Moscow is ready to respond to such threats by “all means” necessary.

Russia’s comments came as United States President Joe Biden said at the end of the NATO summit on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a “craven lust for land and power” and had badly misjudged the resolve of the military bloc to support Ukraine.

“When Putin, and his craven lust for land and power, unleashed his brutal war on Ukraine, he was betting NATO would break apart … But he thought wrong,” Biden said at the end of the two-day summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.

“NATO is stronger, more energised and yes, more united than ever in its history. Indeed, more vital to our shared future,” he said.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday that the outcome of the NATO meeting would be “carefully analysed” for the threats posed to Russia’s security.

“Taking into account the challenges and threats to Russia’s security and interests that have been identified, we will respond in a timely and appropriate manner, using all means and methods at our disposal,” the ministry said in the statement.

Western powers were determined to divide “the world into democracies and autocracies”, the ministry said, adding that “the crosshairs of this policy of searching for enemies is aimed at Russia”.

The ministry also said that NATO was continually lowering the threshold for the use of force while escalating political and military tensions by supplying Ukraine with more powerful and sophisticated weaponry.

“Taking the course of escalation, they issued a new batch of promises to supply the Kyiv regime with more and more modern and long-range weapons in order to prolong the conflict as long as possible – to exhaustion,” the ministry said.

Russia would respond by strengthening “the country’s military organisation and defence system”.

The NATO summit, which opened with news that Turkey would approve Sweden’s membership of the military alliance after months of objections, ended on Wednesday with the US and its allies giving Ukraine new security assurances for its defence against Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who attended the summit, was offered long-term security promises, but he was not given a concrete timeline for NATO membership, which he had lobbied for strenuously.

NATO’s courting of Ukraine will likely further anger Putin who has partly portrayed his invasion of Ukraine as a response to NATO’s eastward expansion and to prevent the possibility of Ukraine joining the Western military alliance and the stationing of NATO forces at Russia’s borders.

Washington, DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Wednesday the NATO summit “demonstrated the degree to which the 2022 Russian invasion has set back the goals for which the Kremlin claims it launched the war” on Ukraine.

“The aim of preventing NATO expansion and, indeed, rolling back earlier rounds of NATO expansion and pushing NATO back from Russia’s borders was one of the Kremlin’s stated demands before the invasion. The Kremlin has repeated this aim continually throughout the war,” the ISW said.

The summit represents a “defeat” for “Russia’s pre-war aims”, it added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov became on Wednesday the second senior Russian figure in as many days to warn of a military escalation owing to Western support for Ukraine. Lavrov said the West was creating a nuclear threat to Russia by planning to supply Ukraine with US-made F-16 fighter jets.

“The USA and its NATO satellites are creating the risk of a direct military confrontation with Russia and this can have catastrophic consequences,” Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian online newspaper

F-16 fighter jets can potentially carry nuclear weapons, Lavrov said.

“The very fact of the appearance of such systems in the Ukrainian armed forces we will consider as a nuclear threat from the West,” he said.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, warned on Tuesday that assistance for Ukraine from NATO members brought the threat of a third global conflict closer.

The training of Ukrainian pilots in the operation of  F-16 fighter jets is to begin in Romania in August, officials said on the sidelines of the NATO summit. Kyiv’s military allies have yet to agree on the actual provision of the advanced warplanes to Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies