NATO won’t trade Eastern European security for Russia’s help in fighting terrorism

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow
Reuters/Scanpix

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said the West and Russia’s positions on fighting terrorism might get closer but that would not change NATO’s response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

“I hope that the diplomatic contacts underway can bring our positions closer together. But Russia also poses this question as if we should cooperate against terrorism and end our measures that have been taken in response to their aggression against Ukraine. And we are not going to make any kind of trade-off,” Vershbow told journalists.

“Russia has undermined the basic principles of the European security system with its aggression and even if we can collaborate more against terrorism, we are not going to abandon our firm response to that aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea in particular,” he said at a joint press conference with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

His comments came a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Europe to drop its “geopolitical games” and unite in fight against terrorism.

Vershbow believes all NATO members would support closer cooperation with Moscow on fighting terrorism, which is particularly important for Moscow due to the situation in North Caucasus.

He also underlined, however, that there are still unanswered questions about Russia’s goals in Syria. The West believe Russia’s intervention in Syria was primarily aimed at supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and not fighting the Islamic State group, according to Vershbow.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said that “joint threats cannot overshadow other problems we see in Russia’s behaviour”.

“One threat cannot be replaced or traded-off to resolve other problems(…). We won’t let our issues be overshadowed and we will remind about our issues,” the president said.

In her words, Lithuania will seek deployment of one battalion of allied troops in each of the Baltic state and also deployment of brigade-size military equipment in the region. Anti-missile and air defence measures aimed at preventing potential military isolation of the Baltic states are also among Lithuania’s goals, the president said.

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