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  Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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Russia will continue contacts with NATO "in a marriage of convenience"
Russia will continue contacts with NATO "in a marriage of convenience" despite concerns over the upcoming military exercises in Georgia, Russia's envoy to NATO has said.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai earlier said that NATO-led military drills due to be held in Georgia would be conducted despite strong opposition from Russia, which threatened to take appropriate measures if the exercises were not cancelled or postponed.

"We will wait and see. Because we cannot prevent these exercises, we will plan some measures to ensure Russia's security and the security of our allies in the South Caucasus," Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with Russia's Gazeta newspaper published on Thursday.

"In addition, it will affect our willingness to cooperate with NATO on a variety of issues. Let's be realistic - our work with NATO is a marriage of convenience, there is no 'love' involved," the official said.

The Cooperative Longbow 09/Cooperative Lancer 09 command-and-staff exercise, led by the Western military bloc, will be held from May 6 through June 1 in Georgia, but will not feature light or heavy weaponry.

According to NATO, the drills, which involve 1,300 troops from 19 NATO members or allies, are aimed at improving interoperability between NATO and partner countries, within the framework of the Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programs.

However, Rogozin reiterated that the drills were politically controversial and reflected NATO's support of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the wake of the armed conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi over South Ossetia last August.

"What we have long suspected has become reality - the exercises are aimed at supporting Saakashvili and Georgia as the aggressor-country. It is obvious that our reaction [to NATO's plans]...was well grounded," he said.

The Russian diplomat confirmed that a meeting of top military officials within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council had been cancelled, but a scheduled gathering of envoys and foreign ministers, planned for April 29 and May 19 respectively, would go ahead.

Rogozin also stressed that Moscow's response to NATO exercises in Georgia would not affect the transit of supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan via Russian territory.

"I do not believe it will be among any possible retaliatory measures. We have never questioned the importance of [NATO cargo] transits, even during the war. It is an issue of strategic interests in which we share a common enemy," he said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow views NATO as a key factor in Euro-Atlantic security, and not as a threat, although Russia is concerned over the alliance's expansion closer to its borders.

"The bloc's expansion is being accompanied by the introduction of air patrols, airport modernization, and the establishment of bases on the territory of newly admitted member states," he said.

He stressed Russia would continue to take all of these factors into account in its foreign policy and military planning, in the interests of ensuring national security.


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