Nato secretary general warns Russia’s aggressive behaviour towards the West and Putin’s opponents risks a new Cold War
- Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg insists West ‘does not want arms race’
- But aggressive posturing by the Russian state is risking a new Cold War
- Comes amid outcry over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny
Russia is risking a ‘new Cold War’ if it tries to push its power base beyond its border, Nato’s secretary general has warned.
Jens Stoltenberg said that Moscow’s recent behaviour and attempt to establish a new ‘sphere of influence … requires a response from Nato’.
His remarks come days after the North Atlantic Council met to discuss the attempted poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny with Novichok.
‘We don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race, but at the same time we have to make sure that we are adapting as the world is changing,’ Mr Stoltenberg told the Daily Telegraph.
Jens Stoltenberg said that Moscow’s recent behaviour and attempt to establish a new ‘sphere of influence … requires a response from Nato’
Mr Stoltenberg highlighted the Moscow’s aggressive actions against neighbours t o establish a ‘kind of sphere of influence’ as central to Nato’s concerns.
‘We have seen that in Georgia, in Moldova, in Ukraine, and that requires a response from Nato.’
Nato, a military alliance of 30 states, is now embarking on the biggest reinforcement of collective defence ‘since the end of the Cold War’, with all Nato allies increasing defence spending.
Mr Stoltenberg added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ‘very serious questions’ to answer after it emerged Putin’s political opponent Mr Navalny was poisoned with novichok – the Soviet-era nerve agent used in the 2018 Salisbury attack.
His remarks come days after the N orth Atlantic Council met to discuss the attempted poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny with Novichok
The former Norwegian PM first learned of the probability that Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with a chemical weapon in a private briefing with Angela Merkel a week before the German Chancellor announced the findings to the world.
‘This is not the first time we’ve seen the use of poison against people in opposition to the Russian regime. That makes it more serious,’ he said.
In Brussels, NATO called for an international probe into Navalny’s poisoning and demanded Moscow reveal details of its Novichok nerve agent programme to the OPCW global chemical weapons watchdog.
After an emergency meeting of NATO’s ruling council, Mr Stoltenberg said all members were united in condemning the ‘horrific’ attack on Navalny.
Hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets following Mr Navalny’s poisoning. Pictured: A man holds up a poster with a portrait of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny reading ‘Navalny was poisoned, we know who is to blame, Alexei you must live’
Germany briefed the other 29 nations on the case and Stoltenberg said there was ‘proof beyond doubt’ Novichok was used.
‘The Russian government must fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on an impartial international investigation,’ Stoltenberg said.
The Novichok attack on Skripal in 2018 led to seven Kremlin diplomats being expelled from their NATO mission.
While Stoltenberg did not rule out a similar reprisal this time, he stressed that the Navalny poisoning was quite different from the Skripal attack, which happened on the soil of a NATO member.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier called on Moscow to cooperate with an international probe into the poisoning and said the 27-nation bloc would not rule out sanctions.
In Moscow, a court threw out a complaint by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation over investigators’ perceived inaction, the group said.
Ivan Zhdanov, head of Navalny’s anti-corruption group, said Thursday the opposition politician’s poisoning opened a ‘new chapter’ in a Kremlin crackdown on dissent.
‘Now the Russian state will be inventing the most absurd and crazy versions of what has happened,’ he told AFP.
Mr Stoltenberg added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ‘very serious questions’ to answer after it emerged Putin’s political opponent Mr Navalny was poisoned with novichok – the Soviet-era nerve agent used in the 2018 Salisbury attack
Russian authorities have appeared reluctant to investigate what caused Mr Navalny’s condition, saying there had so far been no grounds for a criminal investigation.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said a preliminary inquiry was ongoing, but added that he saw no signs of a crime in what happened to the most determined critic of president Vladimir Putin.
Mr Putin’s spokesman has brushed off allegations the Kremlin was involved in poisoning Mr Navalny and said Germany had not provided Moscow with any evidence about the politician’s condition.
‘We have nothing to hide,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday, asserting that German authorities had stonewalled Russian requests for information.
Mr Lavrov said the failure to provide information about Mr Navalny’s poisoning could indicate a lack of evidence.
‘Our Western partners allow themselves to make arrogant demands in such a tone that suggests that they have nothing but pathos to put on the table,’ he said.
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