Merkel defends plans to boost NATO troops, criticises Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended on Thursday NATO's plans to boost troops in Central and Eastern Europe amid tensions with Russia, saying the Kremlin was to blame for the loss of confidence in Moscow.

Speaking ahead of a two-day summit of NATO leaders opening on Friday in Warsaw, Merkel told German lawmakers it was not enough to be able to quickly relocate troops in emergencies.

"The alliance needs to have a stronger presence in the Baltics and in Poland," the chancellor told the lower house of the German Parliament, the Bundestag.

The 28-member US-backed military alliance is expected to agree in Warsaw to the deployment of up-to-1,000-strong battalions in Poland and in each of the three Baltic states, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Warsaw and the Baltic states have raised concerns with NATO about Russian aggression in the region following Moscow's backing of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Germany will make "a substantial contribution" to NATO's deployment plans in Eastern Europe, while at the same time defending the principle of deterrence, Merkel told parliament.

German defence forces are to head up one of the battalions, which includes several hundred soldiers and is to be stationed in Lithuania.

At the same time, the chancellor also stressed the need for dialogue with Russia.

"We agree that lasting security in Europe can only be reached with Russia and not through [moves] directed against Russia," Merkel said, adding that deterrence and dialogue were "inseparable".

She went on to criticize Russia for cancelling a meeting of the NATO-Russia council ahead of the Warsaw summit.

Merkel told parliament that Russia was responsible for the loss of confidence in the country as a result of its actions in supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, where Russia's actions have "deeply disturbed" NATO members in Eastern Europe.

She said the basic principle of the inviolability of borders had been "placed in question by words and deeds.

The Baltics "therefore need the alliance to provide them with a clear sense of security," she said.

Last update: Sat, 09/07/2016 - 16:09
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