Last week witnessed the war of words between NATO and the Kremlin over the information that Russia deployed Bastion anti-ship missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Moreover, on Monday head of the defence committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament Victor Ozerov claimed that Moscow would station Iskander ballistic missiles and S-400 missile-defence systems in its Baltic Sea exclave. NATO accused the Kremlin of “assertive military posturing” (at first many articles cited the word “aggressive” but then some of them, for example the Guardian, made amendments changing it to “assertive”) while the US State Department spokesman John Kirby described the decision as “destabilising to European security”.
Russia rejected Western criticism saying it was just an equivalent response to the alliance’s military buildup near Russia’s borders. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with American filmmaker Oliver Stone that Moscow is “forced to take countermeasures”, including aiming missile systems at the foreign facilities that could pose a threat to Russia. He explained that the Kremlin is concerned by NATO’s decision-making when small countries cannot resist US pressure making them deploy missile systems and host military bases. It is worth noting that some analysts suggested that the interview was filmed before the US presidential elections and the message was supposed to be addressed to Hillary Clinton. However, on Tuesday the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov implicitly confuted this argument calling NATO “an aggressive bloc” and highlighting that Russia “has the sovereign right to take necessary measures across its whole territory” in the face of the alliance’s expansion.
In practice Moscow’s decision could hardly be qualified as surprising since earlier NATO had announced the biggest military buildup on Russia’s borders since the Cold War, deploying 4000 troops in Poland and the Baltics and sending jets, artillery and tanks to Eastern Europe. It is important that later last week fourteen European countries led by Germany voiced concern over “the continuing erosion of the rules-based European security order” and called for a relaunch of arms control talks with Russia in order to prevent an arms race in Europe.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to counter “Russian propaganda”. 304 voted in favor of the document, 179 voted against and 208 abstained. The resolution says that “hostile propaganda against the EU and its member states seeks to distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyse the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens”. The most shocking thing is that Russia was mentioned in the same resolution as ISIS, with the Russian media being portrayed at the same level as ISIS beheadings. Many of those who voted against the resolution, as well as independent experts called it an infringement on media freedom, “neo-McCarthyism”, “shame” and “bad day for democracy”. Russia’s reaction was harsh with Putin claiming that the EU tries to “silence alternative opinions” and described the resolution as a “degradation of democracy”. It seems that Europe, which once was considered a bulwark of free press, is no better than the autocrats it had criticized for suppressing journalism.
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