NATO does not view Russia as a threat and does not constitute a threat to Moscow, however, the Alliance has all plans that may be necessary to protect its Allies, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Vilnius.
Rasmussen said he had no thorough information about the Russian-Belarusian war games Zapad 2013 planned for this year, adding that the exercise scheduled to take place in the Baltic states and Poland around that time were not aimed against third countries.
“We do not consider Russia a threat to NATO and NATO definitely does not constitute a threat to Russia but, of course, we have all plans in place to protect and defend NATO Allies. When it comes to exercises, the most important thing is to demonstrate full transparency,” the secretary general told journalists.
Lithuania’s Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said earlier this week that certain elements of Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad 2013 planned to take place near Lithuania this year were directed against neighbors.
There is no official information on exercise scenarios or the number of troops involved as yet but it is believed that the exercises will be similar to high-profile exercises Zapad-2009 where a scenario included attacks on the Baltic states’ territory and a preventive nuclear attack on Warsaw.
“We don’t have detailed information about upcoming Russian military exercises. Let me stress that, of course, military exercises are integrated part of military activity. NATO countries also organize military exercises and as president mentioned we are actually going to organize military exercises Steadfast Jazz in this region later this year,” said the NATO chief.
“I think it is of utmost importance to demonstrate openness and full transparency when it comes to military exercises. And I can assure you that we are prepared to demonstrate such transparency, our military exercises are not aimed at confronting anyone. They aim at improving our capability to work together, to train our armed forces in working together, to operate more efficiently together. That’s the aim of our exercises, that’s the aim of Steadfast Jazz exercises,” Rasmussen added.
Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian president, said it was important for Lithuania that exercises of NATO response forces, such as Steadfast Jazz, were held on a regular basis. She emphasized that the exercises will for the first time “put a collective defense scenario to an actual test” pursuant to Article 5 of the NATO treaty.
“It is important for Lithuania and the whole region that they are held on a regular basis and ensure our actual safety,” Grybauskaite said at a joint news conference.
The Lithuanian president also stated that the exercises held by the Baltic states together with NATO partners were “always aimed at defense capacities.”
“All NATO exercises are open and we are willing to share such information. They are not aimed against anything and not threatening. This is why we expect the same from our neighbors,” said the president.