Russia says NATO provoking armed conflict
The Russian defence ministry in Moscow has warned Western military attaches of the dangers posed by an armed conflict between Russia and NATO given the recent tensions between the two over Ukraine.
"Recently the alliance has resorted to direct provocations that pose a high risk of escalating into an armed confrontation," Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told diplomats in Moscow on Monday.
The ministry distributed footage showing Fomin criticising NATO to assembled international military representatives including those from some 14 NATO member states.
Fomin accused NATO of a massive increase in military activities in recent years.
In 2020 alone, he said, the number of military flights near Russia's borders had risen from 436 to 710.
Moreover, Fomin added, NATO also held 30 large military exercises each year with combat scenarios involving Russia.
Fomin reiterated Russia's demand for security guarantees from NATO and an end to the alliance's eastward expansion. He also repeated the warning against allowing Ukraine to join NATO.
President Vladimir Putin has recently threatened consequences should NATO advance further into Russia's vicinity.
The Kremlin and the foreign ministry in Moscow are hoping for dialogue with NATO on this issue in the new year.
Fomin said that Russia was always ready for face-to-face talks, while criticising NATO for rejecting every offer Moscow has made for years, preferring instead what he called the path of confrontation.
Russia has repeatedly condemned NATO for expanding its military bases and transferring weapons systems ever closer to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.
In Eastern Europe alone there are now some 13,000 NATO soldiers, 200 tanks and 30 aircraft and helicopter permanently stationed.
NATO argues that its actions simply act as a deterrent against Russia in light of its aggressive policy against Ukraine, among its other former Soviet neighbours.